San Luis Obispo County

The Real Dangers of Distracted Driving

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Eric Okerblom's life was cut short. He was home in Santa Maria  from UC Berkeley, during the summer of 2009.

Eric's mom, Eilene Okerblom tells hers son's story at least 60 times a year. It's difficult for her to tell the story of how her son died, but she does it to show the very real danger of distracted driving.

"He was home on break, it was such a wonderful time in his life, he was looking forward to going back to Berkeley. He would've been leaving in about three weeks." 

Eric was on a straight road in broad daylight when he was hit and killed by a distracted driver.

"He was really the kindest companionate gentle soul, what killed him was the opposite of who he was; the most mindful person," Eilene said.

On April 1st, the California Highway Patrol kicked off ‘Distracted Drivers Awareness' month with Eric's story.

Coastal Division Chief Reginald Chappelle  said, "We all have a choice, choosing to use our phones while driving is not worth the devastating results that follow."

Eilene said her son's story is too common. Distracted driving killed 3,328 people in 2012 and an additional 421,000 were injured.  

The national distracted driving effort focuses on ways to change the behavior of drivers through legislation, enforcement, public awareness and education – the same activities that have curbed drunk driving and increased seat belt use.

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