She’s running the XSport Fitness Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon presented by HumanaVitality to raise awareness for distracted driving.
Even though she lost her son four years ago, Teresa Breen says there isn’t one waking second of any day when she’s not think about him. His name was John Bradley or “J.B.” to his family members. In March of 2009, he was killed in a car accident because he was texting while driving, a danger that seems to be increasing as more and more people become overly reliant on their mobile devices.
J.B. was just 23.
Some time after that tragic event, Teresa, who lives in St. Francisville, Illinois, was watching the Today Show. The show featured various advocacy groups that are attempting to curb this rising epidemic. One of the groups, the Distraction Advocate Network, caught her eye. She wrote them and began to increase her involvement, going so far as meeting Network president Jennifer Smith, as well as former U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood. “It’s something near and dear to my heart,” Breen admits. “I don’t want anyone to go through the pain and the loss — the feelings you have every day — due to something that is so unnecessary. I try to emphasize that it can wait. Your phone call is not going to go away.”
A month ago, Smith contacted Teresa and asked her if she would be interested in running the XSport Fitness Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon presented by HumanaVitality to raise awareness for the Distraction Advocate Network. Never one to back away from a challenge — especially one that she feels can help others — Breen accepted. The only issue: Teresa had never run a half marathon.
“It’s going to be pretty interesting,” Teresa says with a chuckle. “It’s a whole new experience—a whole new thing. I told Jennifer that I’d do my best.”
Breen says that she isn’t going into the race cold turkey. She’s an active person and hopes her fitness will help her on Sunday. “It might not all be running at the race,” she says. “There might be a lot of fast walking out there.”
To prepare, Breen reached out to her friends who are also runners. She took their advice, but ended up coaching herself over the last month. Despite her preparation and training, Breen says she’s very nervous about the upcoming experience. “I’m going to say a lot of prayers out there,” she admits with a laugh.
While Teresa was out running on the roads in preparation for her race, she was alarmed by the number of distracted drivers. “It’s scary out there, it really is,” Breen says of the dangers runners face from drivers who aren’t paying attention to the road. “I wonder, as the cars are coming toward me, just what those drivers are doing. I see it so often while I’m out there. It’s scary, because people can’t seem to put their phone down. They can’t.”
Come Sunday, Teresa won’t be alone on the streets of Chicago. A team of runners from the Travelers Insurance Company, who donated $2000 to the Distracted Advocacy Network, will be joining her for her first half marathon. “We are interested in the parent-teen coaching aspect of driving,” said Gary Griffin, a Director of Communications for the company’s Personal Insurance Division. Travelers offers its customers the option of using IntelliDrive, a wireless device that monitors the habits of drivers. “The alignment between the Distracted Advocacy Network and Travelers is that they are focused on safe driving and we are equally interested in keeping our customers safe and provide information that will help people. This product aligns naturally, because it starts a conversation between parents and teens to improve their driving.”
When asked what people can do to stop distracted driving, Teresa lets out a sigh. “That’s a tough question,” she admits. “Because I realize technology is out there, but there is a time and place for everything.” She says that the best way to stop people from getting killed by this epidemic is to legislate. “We are trying to fight to get laws passed to make people aware of this distraction while driving. It can happen to you. The more laws we get out there to emphasize to people that this is a danger, the better. It’s going to save a life. I know it is.”
Breen pauses and takes a deep breath.
“I don’t want people to feel the loss like I do over something so senseless as this. If one person hears my story and I can save one life, that’s what it’s all about.”