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'I had to have my face completely redone,' survivor of crash caused by distracted driving reflects on texting ban

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Posted at 10:57 PM, Sep 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-06 10:30:35-04

Some places bring back bitter memories. For Tom Burke, it's the gas station that's just a few minutes away from his home.

"I slow down every time we go by there," Burke said.

Eight years ago, Burke was hit by a distracted driver after she flew through a stop sign. Burke said police expected she was going around 70 to 80 miles per hour.

"She admitted that she was texting while she was driving," Burke said. "She was looking down at her phone and looked up and didn't even realize she was that close to the intersection."

The impact sent Burke's car flying through the air.

"Flipped my truck over three times, rolled it off into a gas station hit a concrete culvert," Burke said. "Messed me up pretty good."

Burke spent several months recovering in the hospital. To this day, he still lives with physical and emotional pain. 

"I had to have my face completely redone," Burke said. "I busted all of my ribs, had three or four cracked vertebrae in my back." 

On Sept. 1, 2017, the Texas Legislature made it illegal for drivers to text while they're behind the wheel, but there's still plenty of people breaking the law.

Since the ban went into effect, Texas DPS troopers have issued 1,195 tickets and 4,247 warnings. 

Burke's wife, Lynna, met him a few years after his accident. She can't imagine what life would've been like without him.

"I have very strong feelings about texting and driving," Lynna said. "It can change your life in an instant. At least he survived, but many don't."

Burke wants his story to make others think twice before picking up their phone.

He said a life shouldn't have to be lost for others to take this ban seriously.

"It can wait," Burke said. "There's no need for it."

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