St. George woman injured, widowed in distracted driving accident plans speaking tour

Published: Monday, April 1 2013 6:15 p.m. MDT

Haley Warner speaks during the memorial 5K Saturday for her father David Henson who was killed in an auto-pedestrian accident.

Deseret News

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ST. GEORGE — One month after losing her husband in an auto-pedestrian accident as he pushed her away and saved her life, Leslee Henson is back home recovering from serious injuries to her back and neck.

In fact, the St. George resident is already preparing to speak to high school students throughout southern Utah as part a distracted driving campaign aimed to prevent tragedies like the one she experienced.  

"She wants to put her energy into spreading awareness, just like the rest of us," Henson's daughter Haley Warner said.

As early as next week, Henson will begin speaking to high school students throughout southern Utah about the dangers of texting while driving.

"Emotionally, my mom's just really, really tough," Warner said. "(Speaking) gives her something to do, something to keep her busy."

Leslee and Dave Henson were in Santa Clara training for the St. George Spectrum 10K race on March 4 when a car that had been rear-ended by a texting driver slammed into them, killing Dave almost immediately as he pushed Leslee away from the initial impact.

Leslee Henson suffered fractures in her back and neck and required more than 5,000 stitches and minor facial reconstruction surgery. She is expected to recover fully after undergoing physical therapy.

"She still can't lift things, and she'll have to wear a brace for about three months," Warner said. "But she's doing pretty good. She can walk around and she can dress herself."

Henson's tentatively planned speaking tour is part of the family's campaign to educate drivers about the perils of texting or being otherwise distracted on the road.

Besides holding a "silent" 5K in Mapleton to honor their father last month, Warner, her sister, Lindsey Mackay, and brother, Blake Henson, recently launched StopTheTextsStopTheWrecks.blogspot.com and plan to purchase several billboards in southern Utah to draw attention to the issue.

"Our main objective is to hopefully get stricter cellphone laws in Utah," Warner said. "Distracted driving is just not smart. When people start realizing how dangerous it is, we think they'll eventually be persuaded."

Texting while driving is against the law in Utah, and a bill passed by the Legislature this year prohibits drivers under 18 years old from talking on their cellphone while driving.

The siblings' campaign coincides with Distracted Driving Awareness Month being put on by the National Safety Council throughout April. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that distracted driving caused 9 percent of all fatal crashes and resulted in 3,092 deaths in 2010, its most recent reporting year. 

E-mail: blockhart@deseretnews.com

Twitter: benlockhart89

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