Liz Marks read a text while driving her car, and it changed her life irreparably. Today, still bearing the physical and psychological scars from her ordeal, Marks shares her story for the benefit of others. But she’s lost a lot along the way.
“I read it from this phone,” Marks told NBC, holding up the mobile phone that distracted her attention from the road. In April of 2012, the then-17-year-old Marks was driving down a road near St. Michaels, Maryland, when she read a text message from her mom. Seconds later, she crashed her car into a tow truck.
The text contained a single word: “Okay.”
“I heard the message come through, and I bent down to check it,” Marks regaled, speaking to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. “I hadn’t noticed that there was a tow truck stopped ahead of me.” From that moment on, Marks has had to piece the story together from witness accounts. “I collided with the truck,” she said, “and it went over the hood of my car and hit my head.”
Marks’s mother says she felt something was wrong. “Fifteen minutes later, there were some state troopers at my door,” she recalled. “She wasn’t expected to make it.”
The seriously injured teen spent almost four weeks in the intensive care unit of the University of Baltimore Shock Trauma Center. “I’m now blind, partially deaf, and I can’t smell,” Marks revealed. She also has a prosthetic eye, and these injuries are permanent.
Marks was a popular student and aspiring model before the crash. “The hardest part about my life after the car accident was the fact that I was alone,” Marks shared, in a moving video filmed for The U.S. Department of Transportation in 2014. “Everyone was away at college; I wasn’t.”
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Marks had to learn, from scratch, how to eat, walk, and speak again, but it was difficult without the support network of her school days. Her mother’s heart broke when, during her recovery, she saw a post on her daughter’s Facebook page asking if anybody would spend time with her. “My friends were there for me at first,” Marks opened up. “But after a while,” she continued, “they weren’t.”
“I always lied to mom, because I always thought I was invincible,” the young woman admitted. “Everyone else was doing it, so I thought it was okay. But clearly, I was completely wrong.”
“No one’s invincible.”
Accident prevention site Don’t Text & Drive shared a sobering study from the University of Utah, indicating that “the reaction time of a teen driver using a cell phone is the same as that of a 70-year-old driver who is not using a cell phone.”
Shaw believes that parents should lead by example.
“Don’t text your young drivers. Don’t make that mistake I did,” she said. And as for Marks, her message is simple: “If you get a text, don’t look at it. It’s not worth it.”
Marks and her mother have raised visibility for driving safety by appearing together on an episode of Oprah: Where Are They Now?, and the mom-daughter power pair now frequently speak publicly about the very real dangers of texting and driving.
“I think I’m able to tell my story in a powerful way,” Marks shared. “I know that it takes bravery to go public and reveal the entire story of what happened to me, and for that I am proud.”
“I want to save lives.”