Joey Eddins

Joey Eddins, who was seriously injured due to an accident caused by a driver who was texting in 2016, is fighting for stricter laws for distracted driving.

Joey Eddins is grateful she can walk, although she has constant pain and a recurring limp.

She says she’s not bitter about the driver who was texting as he pulled from the McDonald’s parking lot on Columbia Avenue and into her path on June 25, 2016 — injuring her and ending her career as an EMT.

“I still have nerve damage, and pain every day,” said Eddins, 48. “It’s fairly clear my ability to jump on and off an ambulance or carry a patient down the stairs won’t be happening any time soon.”

Now working as an EMS instructor, Eddins devotes her spare time to making drivers keep their eyes on the road.

Today, the Mountville area woman will go to Harrisburg to watch as state Rep. Brett Miller fields a bill designating Thursday “Don’t Text and Drive” awareness day.

“You can’t change anything without awareness,” Eddins said Tuesday. “If we get even one person to put down their phone while they’re driving, then the day’s a success.”

On Thursday, Eddins will join first responders in Columbia to spread the message even further.

Meet, greet, pledge

Thursday’s meet-and-greet event begins at 6 p.m. at the municipal building, 308 Locust St., with members of Columbia Borough and Northern Lancaster County Regional police departments, Columbia Fire Department, Columbia Emergency Medical Services and Susquehanna Valley EMS.

Attendees will be urged to sign a “no texting and driving” pledge. Refreshments will be provided, and Eddins will talk about her life since the disabling crash.

Nationally, over a million vehicle crashes each year involve distracted drivers, the National Safety Council estimated.

In Pennsylvania, 44 people died in cellphone-involved crashes since 2012, according to PennDOT, including a New Providence woman who died in 2015 when a texting driver veered into her vehicle in Strasburg Township.

Columbia police Chief Jack Brommer on Tuesday lauded Eddins for raising the issue on the state level, and said Thursday’s event will remind motorists about the hazards of texting and driving.

“Joey Eddins’ story best exemplifies why distracted driving should matter to everyone,” Brommer said. “Her life was forever changed due to the actions of a distracted driver.”

$50 is nothing

Eddins said she wants harsher laws to discourage texting while driving.

Currently, she said, a driver caught texting behind the wheel faces a $50 fine.

“That’s nothing,” Eddins said. “Somebody has a fender bender, they pay their $50 and they don’t think twice about it. Tomorrow they’re texting and driving again.”

Miller, in a memo urging support of the House bill, said the penalty for texting while driving in Pennsylvania is “among the lowest in the nation and has done little to curb this ever increasing danger.”

He hopes to raise fines to $250 for the first offense, with higher rates for subsequent offenses.

In an email Tuesday, Miller said cell phones and other hand-held devices “can become a source of great distraction” on the roads.

Like drinking a 4-pack

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says people who text while driving have a 23 percent higher chance of causing a crash.

That’s about the same likelihood of a person who drinks four beers and gets behind the wheel, according to the NHTSA website. In 2015, the agency reports, 3,477 people were killed and 391,000 were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers.

“We’re losing more people to this than to DUI,” Eddins said. “If the numbers (of fatal and serious accidents) are the same as DUI, the penalties need to be the same.”

Gov. Tom Wolf in November signed Daniel’s Law, which imposes a two- to five-year prison sentence on anyone who causes a death or serious injury while texting behind the wheel.

Repeat violators should lose their license for good, Eddins said.