NewsProject: Drive Safer


'Patience is a virtue': Teen paralyzed by a distracted driver at age 5 advocates against texting and driving

Doctors told Xzavier’s family he had two years to live. 13 years later, he’s reminded of that driver’s decision every single day.
Xzavier .jpeg
Posted at 5:41 PM, Nov 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-29 19:16:01-05

MILWAUKEE — In a matter of seconds, the decision to check your cell phone while driving can have devastating consequences.

Xzavier Davis-Bilbo’s life changed forever after someone made the decision to text and drive.

Like many seniors in high school, Xzavier loves video games and sneakers.

"X is a shoe guy,” his mother Valetta Bradford said.

But unlike most 17-year-olds, Xzavier needs a ventilator every hour to breathe and a wheelchair to get around.

"When we leave, we're a traveling ICU,” Valetta said.

It’s the way Xzavier has learned to live since he was paralyzed and placed on life support more than a decade ago.

"We breathe naturally with the use of our diaphragm,” Valetta said. “X doesn't have the diaphragm."

At the age of five, he was struck by a car while crossing a Milwaukee intersection to get to an elementary school playground.

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"We almost lost him that day,” Valetta said.

Valetta says the woman behind the wheel was texting and driving when she blew a stop sign. The vehicle dragged Xzavier about 40 feet before coming to a halt.

Doctors told Xzavier’s family he had two years to live. Thirteen years later, he’s reminded of that driver’s decision every single day.

“How has it impacted your life ever since?” TMJ4 asked Xzavier.

"It's definitely been way different, just way different,” he replied. "Sports, things I want to do that I can't do. Really getting out the house more."

According to Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation (WisDOT), sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for an average of five seconds. At 55 miles an hour, that’s equivalent to driving the length of a football field blindfolded.

WisDOT’s Safety Director David Pabst says texting and driving is hands down the worst form of distracted driving.

"You're visually distracted looking at the phone,” he said. "Your brain is engaged in trying to compose that text, and then your hands are off the steering wheel, and you're trying to compose the text."

WisDOT data shows an alarming trend. More people are dying each year in crashes caused by distracted drivers.

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Distracted driving was also the primary factor in crashes that caused more than 7,700 injuries in just the last two years. Pabst says those figures are often under-reported due to a lack of proof or other causes behind the crashes.

“It can be a form of reckless driving, absolutely,” Pabst said. “Reckless driving has an element of negligence, criminal negligence and so if it rose to that level, you could literally have reckless driving be part of that."

The state already has laws that prohibit texting and driving and even using handheld devices while in work zones and areas where an emergency response is underway.

"We can't enforce our way out of this,” he said. “We have to have a change in culture."

Back at Xzavier’s home, he wants drivers to remember his story the next time they think about sending a text while they’re behind the wheel.

"Just stop doing it, it's pointless,” he said. “Patience is a virtue."

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