PLATTE CITY, Mo. -- A split second of distracted driving changed a Platte City man's life forever. Now he shares his story with anyone who will listen to try and make a difference.
Chad Kitzman was about to graduate from college. He had a fiance and lots of friends. But one night seven years ago changed all that. He was driving home late one night in 2005 and took his eyes off the road to answer his cell phone.
"Coming up to a curve in the road, got a cell phone call, went to answer my cell phone took my eyes off the road, and took my car off the road and hit the guardrail," Kitzman says. "My car landed and went end over end down the hill and since I had no seat belt, I was thrown all over the car until my body went flying through the driver's side window and landed on I-29."
The doctors didn't think he would live through the night. He ended up being in a coma for four months. He had many surgeries including having part of his skull removed because of swelling in his brain. When he finally woke up, he couldn't walk or talk, but even worse he couldn't remember anything from the last four years.
"I actually had a fiance but I didn't remember meeting her. I did not know what her name was," he said. "In that situation the scarier part for me was how it made other people feel."
His fiance eventually left him. He says he understands that she had to move on with her life because the Chad she knew was dead. He had to re-learn how to walk and talk. In 2009, he decided that something good had to come from all this. He started sharing his story with kids.
"It's not just what could happen," he said. "It's what did happen."
And he reminds them how it all started because he reached for his cell phone.
"Using your cell phone while driving slows your reaction time worse than if you're drunk and that tells me it should be illegal regardless of what state you're in," Chad said.
That's why Kitzman's message is: Put the cell phone away and always wear your seat belt.
"If it helps save one life, it's worth it," says Kitzman
Kitzman does his presentations through a safety organization in Kansas City called Think First.