Couple raising awareness after losing legs in crash with distracted driver

Tina and Lorin Smith each lost a leg in a crash involving a distracted driver. (Smith family)

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — A husband and wife are trying to send a message about the dangers of distracted driving after a crash changed their lives forever. Their message is a simple one: pay attention, and don’t get distracted by your phone.

On Aug. 3, Lorin Smith and his wife Tina were standing next to their motorcycles on the side of the road. They were mapping out a route for their annual Carmen Ellis Memorial Ride. Tina started the charity ride and named it after her 3-year-old granddaughter who was beaten to death in Aug. 2012. The money raised goes to Lutheran Child and Family Services.

It was while scouting the route for the 8th annual event that Tina suddenly spotted the minivan coming at them full speed. She yelled just before it hit Lorin.

“I saw her hit him and I immediately turned around and I was trying to jump off the right side of my bike because I knew she was going to get me too,” said Tina.

Lorin remembers getting hit and the moments right after.

“I heard her yelling,” Lorin said, “I was launched about 20 feet in the air. I don't know about you because I didn't see her, but when I came down, I could hear her screaming.”

“When she started praying over me I said in my heart I said, 'I forgive you.'”

After the crash several people came to the couple's rescue. Among them was Amanda Carton who was driving the minivan. Tina was badly injured, but noticed that Amanda not only stayed on the scene but started praying.

“When she started praying over me I said in my heart I said, 'I forgive you,'” said Tina.

The husband and wife told Eyewitness News that Carton reportedly told investigators that she looked at her cell phone for only a few seconds before the crash. Carton has not been arrested or charged in the crash.

Both Lorin and Tina ended up losing their left leg. They go through countelss hours of physical therapy, and both are looking forward to getting prosthetics for their left legs.

They are convinced having the same injury has been a blessing because they can relate to each other. Especially when it comes to what’s known as “ghost pain”. That’s when an amputee feels pain in a part of their body that is no longer there.

They're also starting a campaign to stop distracted driving.

“Due to a distracted driver this is exactly what happened to us,” Lorin said.

“Please stay off your phones,” Tina added.

The couple are trying to approach their situation with a sense of humor, making laughter part of their healing. They're known to wear shirts with phrases on them like: "Hokey Pokey" and "Limpin' Ain't Easy."

Lorin and Tina are trying to use laughter as a way of healing. (Smith family)
Lorin and Tina are trying to use laughter as a way of healing. (Smith family)
Lorin and Tina are trying to use laughter as a way of healing. (Smith family)
Lorin and Tina in the hospital after the crash. (Smith family)
Lorin and Tina recovering at home after the crash. (Smith family)
Lorin taking part in walking therapy. (Smith family)
Tina taking part in walking therapy. (Smith family)

But there are hard times. Tina relies on Lorin to help her with her wheelchair, which is too heavy for her to lift and put into the car. They're also still going through physical therapy and aren't sure if they'll have to give up their love of riding motorcycles.

They do still plan to put on the charity ride each year and plan to keep pushing for people to get rid of the distractions and focus on the road.

Indiana distracted driving law

Indiana does have a distracted driving law, but there are a lot of gray areas.

While it is illegal to text or read emails while driving, the law does not prohibit things like browsing social media, watching videos or playing games. For drivers 21 and under, no use of mobile devices at the wheel, even hands-free devices is allowed.

Republican Rep. Jim Pressel (IN-20) said the current law is also very difficult to enforce. In order to stop a driver, a law enforcement officer must be able to definitively tell what that person is doing on their phone, which is nearly impossible. Rep. Pressel introduced a bill in the past session to expand the current law and eliminate any confusion. However, the bill did not get enough support to move forward. He does plan to present an updated version of his bill in the next legislative session that would prohibit the use of any telecommunications device while operating a vehicle. The goal is to get those devices out of drivers' hands and focused on the wheel. Voice-to-text technology through a vehicle would still be allowed.

"I think Hoosiers are ready for this. We all know it's a bad practice to text and drive, email and drive, to be using that mini-computer we have while driving down the road," Rep. Pressel said. "But until we make it illegal, people are going to continue to do it. The people I've talked to really want to see something done with this."