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Nineteen-year-old Alexxyss Therwhanger was texting on her cellphone when she died in a February 2016 crash

SUBMITTED PHOTO - The crumpled remains of Alexxyss Therwhanger's Buick Century are now part of a travelling display that will be parked on State Street in downtown Lake Oswego through Feb. 25.Nineteen-year-old Alexxyss Therwhanger was texting and using social media on her cellphone in February 2016 when her 1998 Buick Century failed to negotiate a left-hand curve and crossed over into the opposite lane. It collided with a 1994 Lincoln Continental, killing Therwhanger and seriously injuring two people in the other car.

Now, the crumpled remains of Therwhanger's car serve as a grim reminder of the perils of distracted driving, thanks to the efforts of her still-grieving family and the Oregon Department of Transportation. And this weekend, the car — preserved exactly as it was when first responders arrived at the crash scene — will be on display in Lake Oswego as a visceral reminder of what can happen when drivers are distracted.

The display, which features photos of Therwhanger and a timeline of her trip from Long Creek in Eastern Oregon to the time of her accident, is parked on State Street in downtown Lake Oswego, just off Sundeleaf Plaza near the Lake Theater and Cafe. It's on loan to the Lake Oswego Police Department, which reserved the large white trailer containing the display for this weekend to take advantage of the big crowds expected to attend the Festival of the Arts.

Why now? State and local officials say distracted driving has become an epidemic, and they need to spread that message to as many people as possible.

ODOT says there is a distracted driving crash in Oregon, on average, every 2.5 hours. Locally, Lake Oswego police and firefighters responded to 391 crashes in 2016, a 21 percent increase over the number of crashes in 2015, and LOPD Lt. Doug Treat says "we believe 75 percent of all crashes in Lake Oswego are related to distracted driving."

None of those accidents in Lake Oswego were fatal, but Treat says that doesn't make the sight of Therwhanger's mangled Buick any less chilling.

"We encourage all citizens to stay focused while driving," Treat says. "We want to you and your passengers to be safe."

— The Review

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