SALT LAKE CITY -- Jamie Lynn Crandall took off her crown recently, but she won't stop passing around the life-saving message that became her platform as Miss Utah USA 2011: "Hang up, Save a Life Before You Drive."
Crandall has spent her year as Miss Utah spreading the message to teenage drivers that it's not worth texting behind the wheel. She knows this all too well. In 2007, Crandall's friend, Lauren Mulkey, lost her life to a teen who was texting while driving.
"We had been celebrating St. Patrick's Day and she had just dropped me off at home," Crandall said. "I was wearing her green sweatshirt and told her I would return it the next day."
The sweatshirt was never returned, however, because Mulkey was killed instantly when a teenage driver ran a red light.
"She had a full green light. The red light was fully red for six seconds," Crandall said. "He was just really into his texting. He wasn't even injured in the accident."
Crandall said Mulkey, who was 17 when she was killed, was a star athlete at East High School. "She was a track runner and graduated early from high school," she said. "She was attending Westminster (College) on an art scholarship. She was amazing and beautiful. She had so much going for her. It was senseless that she had to lose her life."
As part of her effort to spread the message that texting while driving is dangerous, Crandall joined in the efforts of Advocates Law Firm in Salt Lake City. Together, they have gone to high school football games throughout the state to encourage people to visit their Facebook page and sign a pledge not to text and drive.
"We've been all over the valley promoting the campaign," said Renata Hadden, marketing director for the law firm. "We took little go-carts and had the kids drive them around while trying to text."
Crandall, who also speaks to high school students, said too many kids think they're invincible and can text while driving without any harm.
"They don't think it's going to happen to them, but distracted driving has become an epidemic," Crandall said. "Eleven teenagers each day are killed by distracted driving. That's not a small number."
According to textkills.com, drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves or others. Using a cell phone while driving, whether hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver's reactions as much as having a blood alcohol level at the legal limit of .08 percent.
Texting while driving in Utah is against the law. Violations can result in a Class C misdemeanor. If texting- related accidents result in a death, the misdemeanor climbs to felony criminal homicide.
"Texting and driving is stupid," Crandall said. "Don't think that it won't happen to you. Take into consideration what happened to my friend and do what you can to make sure it doesn't happen to you, your friend or your child."