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Tampa teen who crashed while texting is grounded

TAMPA — Katelyn Blaylock may be 18 but her mother says she's grounded indefinitely.

"It will be a while," Susan Blaylock said Friday.

And there will be no new car, the mother said.

On Wednesday, Katelyn slammed into a police car and became the latest cautionary tale of what happens when teenagers text message while driving.

The incident brought a careless-driving citation and $3,000 in vehicle damage.

But the family didn't expect the widespread news coverage.

"It's definitely blown way out of proportion," Susan Blaylock said. "There's no way it should be on every news station and every radio station in the morning."

Her daughter is a good kid, she said. She works in the Winn-Dixie bakery after school. She graduates June 1 and plans to go to cosmetology school.

"She's a typical teenager, an All-American teenager, a B student," Susan Blaylock said. "She was involved in sports when she was younger. She's not a bad kid. Blonde hair and brown eyes. Just a normal kid. She doesn't have wild, crazy hair. The kids she hangs out with are normal people."

On Wednesday morning, Katelyn Blaylock skipped a class at Freedom High School and drove to Taco Bell along with two of her friends, she said in an interview with the St. Petersburg Times.

While driving, she received a text message from her boyfriend asking her to pick up some food, she said. She got another message from a friend asking when she was headed back to campus.

She texted as she drove, she said.

She didn't see a red light at the intersection of Bruce B. Downs and Palm Springs boulevards or a Tampa police car stopped at the light.

Katelyn was glancing at her phone to look up the time when she barreled into the patrol car, she said.

The air bags in her 1999 Chrysler Sebring inflated, burning Katelyn's elbow and the chin of her front seat passenger, Alexis Suda, 18. Otherwise, no one, including the police officer, was hurt.

It was a tough lesson for Katelyn. It was just the second time she had skipped school, she said.

"I'm not going to text and drive any more," she said Friday.

Police took the third student in the car, Ashton Longworth, 17, back to school. Susan Blaylock drove Alexis and Katelyn to Freedom.

"My feeling is had she been in school, she wouldn't have hit the car in the first place," Susan Blaylock said. "I'm more mad that she skipped school to do this."

"I am not one of those parents who allow her kids to skip," she said. "I do not condone it."

But at the same time, she defended her daughter and family from insensitive comments anonymously left on news Web sites.

"What these people put on these Web sites is cruel because they don't know me. It is far from whatever these people say. I am not making excuses for my child," she said. "I want people to understand she's not the first kid to get in a wreck because she was texting.

"I'm not making an excuse for her at all, but unfortunately she won't be the last. We're all incredibly blessed that no one was hurt. We're all lucky it wasn't a carload of kids or a pedestrian walking across the road."

Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or jgeorge@sptimes.com.

Tampa teen who crashed while texting is grounded 05/22/09 [Last modified: Monday, May 25, 2009 5:31pm]

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