Wichita family shares story to end texting and driving

Published On: Apr 20 2014 09:32:46 PM CDT   Updated On: Apr 21 2014 06:09:17 AM CDT

You've probably seen it on TV and in social media. It's an all out campaign by the Kansas Department of Transportation and the Highway Patrol, trying to get a life saving message through. Don't text and drive. Don't do anything that might distract you while driving.

One Wichita family is helping spread that message after a texting accident turned their world upside down.

"Austin came from literally four seconds of driving down a highway to becoming almost infancy stage in a manner of seconds," said Julie Breitenstein. Her son Austin sits next to her, following the conversation but unable to participate.

While the Breitensteins are glad their he survived a rollover accident along I-235 in 2009, they say it changed all their lives forever.

"Just getting him to relearn how to eat, how to relearn to drink from a straw, to relearn to brush his teeth," said Austin's mom, describing the months and years of therapy he's gone through since the accident.

Austin Breitenstein suffered a traumatic brain injury with symptoms similar to a stroke. Years later they're still working on helping Austin return to who he was before the accident.

"Austin at this point in time understands everything," said Julie. "He just cannot verbalize. So Austin lets me know what he wants to be told and I convey that for him."

Julie Breitenstein says, statistically, this should have destroyed their family. But they clung together. Now they share what they've survived with others across the state, on TV, in newspapers and magazines, and at high school presentations.

"We want society to know that what our family has gone through because of the distracted driving and the texting and driving has literally turned us upside down," she said.

They do it in hopes that it will keep others from going through the same difficulties.

While the Breitensteins have seen no change in the statistics surrounding distracted driving, they say they do have hope.

"We will be walking along and they'll say, 'We've seen your commercial. We've seen you on TV. Don't stop. You're making a difference,'" said Julie Breitenstein, describing the reaction to the family campaign against texting and driving.

Last Friday, the family went to Topeka to help launch the Kansas Department of Transportation's push against distracted driving this week. That push includes state troopers in unmarked vehicles running special patrols looking for drivers who are texting.

The initiative here in Kansas is part of a national effort this month to bring awareness to distracted driving.