Distracted Driving: Paralyzed Minn. Woman Shares her Story

Updated: 04/12/2014 10:06 AM
Created: 04/11/2014 5:08 PM
By: Josh Rosenthal

Texting while driving is a lot more dangerous than many of us realize.

A teen-led summit held Friday tackled the issue of distracted driving, and one Minnesota woman shared her story.

As far as 16-year-old Sontiana Brandts was concerned, nobody had it better.

"I have a cellphone, I have a driver's license. I'm ready to take over the world," she remembers thinking. But then Brandt's world changed forever on Jan. 29, 2007. She was driving her brother to a wrestling tournament. She was also texting. Brandt ended up rolling her van.

"When I woke up," she said Friday, "that's when I learned I was paralyzed."

Brandt spent three weeks in the ICU, and then she decided she'd had enough.

"I chose to succeed in life and be positive," she smiled. She also hoped other teens could learn from her mistakes.

"I was like 'oh wait, my legs aren't moving,' but like, I knew I could move them before," she told a group of about a thousand teenagers in Bloomington at a distracted driving summit Friday. The hope is that if the teens won't listen to their parents or teachers, they just might listen to Brandt.

"Like she said, you're not invincible," explained one of the event's 17-year-old organizers, Samantha Severance. "Us, being teenagers, we tend to think that we are, and she relates to the crowd so much that way."

So Brandt may no longer be the 16-year-old ready to take over the world, but now she's a 23-year-old with a message she thinks the world needs to hear.

"Is it really worth being paralyzed? Is it worth having your own life taken away? And if you look at it overall," she explained, "it's not, it's never worth it."

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