Crash survivor stresses the importance of distraction-free driving

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Molly Welch survived a crash caused by distracted driving and has launched a campaign to urge others to stay focused on the road. Photo provided to the AJC

No matter what states you’ve motored through on your summer road trips, or perhaps just commuting around town, you’re bound to have seen those official Department of Transportation signs reminding you that texting and driving can be deadly (and, in many places, is illegal).

Molly Welch hopes you’ll absorb the meaning, and that you’ll keep your eyes on the road.

The 2005 Milton High School graduate was a junior journalism major at Auburn University when a head-on collision left her comatose for three weeks.

“I must have been fiddling around with my recorder,” she said in a video produced by Atlanta’s Shepherd Center, which serves patients who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. “I lost control of the car and veered across the median and went head-on with a pickup truck.”

Welch spent years in speech, physical and occupational therapy before she was able to return to school and, with her brother’s help, cross the stage to receive her diploma. Now 30 and continuing to recover, Welch is combining her communication skills and personal experience to create a series of videos sharing her story. She’s been giving speeches through her motivational speaking company, A Second Later.

“It takes only a second for your life to be flipped upside down,” she said. “I don’t want anyone to experience the outcomes that I’ve had to deal with.”

She continued working with the Shepherd Center as a volunteer after she left as a patient.

“She fits easily in with anybody,” volunteer services director Alex Seblatnigg said during the Shepherd video. “She’s pretty adaptable.”

Fellow volunteer and former TBI patient Carol Olsen appreciates Welch’s humor and candor.

“Molly is so great at interacting with people,” Olsen said. “She’s got wit and grace. She tells jokes.”

In an interview with the AJC, Welch said that, like too many of us, she’d never appreciated the dangers of distracted driving.

“Your friends can wait,” she said. “Hold on a little bit and focus on driving.”

She’s done with therapy for the moment and is focusing on improving her strength and balance. She’s not yet able to drive again but is proud of the milestones she’s been able to hit.

“I went from a wheelchair to walker to cane,” she said. “I went from whispering and people not being able to understand me to mostly being able to understand me. I still want to lose my cane. I used to run. Now I walk a lot. I enjoy the smaller things in life now, like just going to get a cup of coffee.”“

She lives at home, in Alpharetta, but hopes to live independently one day.

“It’s hard to cook and clean and stuff,” she said. “I want everyone to live a happy, normal life.”