Woman pleads with Utah drivers to put down cellphones

Woman pleads with Utah drivers to put down cellphones

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Highway Patrol and 20 other agencies conducted a special distracted driving enforcement effort state-wide this weekend looking for those whose eyes were not on the road. UHP alone pulled over 2,449 drivers, 68 of them were distracted, 13 were driving under the influence, and 69 were engaging in reckless behavior.

At the virtual Zero Fatalities Safety Summit Tuesday, one Utah woman shared why it's never worth texting and driving.

Leslee Henson Rasmussen and her husband David moved to St. George in 2012. "We'd only been there five months when our lives did change forever," Rasmussen said.

In March of 2013, they were on a walk on Dixie Drive when a distracted driver hit them both, killing David instantly on impact.

"It was caused by a 50-year-old woman who was speeding. She was texting," Rasmussen explained. She was also flown to Utah Valley Hospital after suffering neck and back fractures and severe head trauma which required 5,000 stitches and staples to her scalp.

"The worst injury, however, was my scalp. I did have three bleeds on my brain," she described.

Since the crash and death of her husband, Rasmussen and her children have dedicated their lives to educating the public about the dangers of texting and driving.

"Learn to put your phone away, put it in the back seat, put it in your purse, put it in the glove compartment, put it away," Rasmussen urged.

She was instrumental in helping SB253 pass during the 2014 legislative session making it against the law for drivers to manipulate the keyboard on their phone while they are behind the wheel.

Rasmussen is now advocating for lawmakers to pass a "hands-free" bill in Utah and urges her fellow Utahns to reach out to their local representatives to push for safer roads.

A survey conducted by the Utah Department of Public Safety and Utah Department of Transportation showed 24% of Utahns admitted to texting while driving on Utah roads in the last 30 days. Last year, 19 Utahns were killed and 1,800 others were injured as a result of distracted driving according to UHP.

"I hope we all remember that it really does only take one step to save a life," Rasmussen warned.