A potentially deadly accident is now a regional campaign against - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

A potentially deadly accident is now a regional campaign against texting and driving

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MCMINN COUNTY, TN (WRCB) - What could have been a potentially deadly accident is now turning into a regional campaign against texting and driving. Seeing this patrol car is a real reminder of just how dangerous it can be.
Nick Austin, teen driver who hit McMinn Co. Deputy, "I put my phone down, and I looked up, and all I saw was Mr. Gabrel's car."

Earlier this summer, Nick Austin took his eyes off the road for a few seconds to send a text.  McMinn County deputy Randy Gabrel was on his way home, saw Austin's car crossing the center line about to hit him head on.

Randy Gabrel, McMinn County deputy, "I just had to slow down best as I could and absorb the impact."

Police say it's amazing no one died.

Randy Gabrel, "I opened my eyes and made sure I was still alive.  My first thought was I need to check on the other person."

Nick Austin, "I don't know how I walked away from the car, I'll be the first one to tell you that. I said God had to be riding shotgun with me."

The two were rushed to separate hospitals, where an unlikely friendship started over the phone.

Randy Gabrel, "when he answered the phone, I told him who  was, and he immediately started apologizing."

Nick Austin, "I was sitting there crying and apologizing for everything I did, and I told him  made a mistake."

Randy Gabrel, "I said Nick, we've got a good opportunity to make something good out of this."

That's why the crash victims-turned-good friends are partnering with the McMinn County Sheriff's Office and Channel 3 in launching a regional campaign against texting and driving.

Sheriff Joe Guy, McMinn County, "This has really impacted our department and the way we do things, and we hope we can change that culture throughout the region."

Both crashed vehicles will be part of Channel 3's Friday Night Football so the guys can tell their story.

Nick Austin, "it may have been a mistake, but we're here today to talk about it. so that's a good thing."

Randy Gabrel, "I realize I've been given a second chance. And I'm gonna make something positive out of it."

Both Nick and Deputy Gabrel plan on traveling to any school or any event in the region to help spread their message on distracted driving.

If your school or organization is interested in scheduling an appearance call the McMinn Co. Sheriff's Office at 423-745-5620

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