Mission, Vision & Board
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April, 12, 1991 - January 20, 2004
On Jan. 19, 2004, Joe and I were on our way to an after school activity. We were driving down an urban divided highway when a 20-year-old woman, driving a Hummer while talking on her cell-phone, ran a red light and slammed in the passenger side of my car, killing Joe. The driver of the Hummer passed four cars and a school bus that had all stopped at the red light. She never applied her brakes, and witnesses reported seeing her talking on her cell phone and looking straight out the front window. She was looking, but she didn’t see the red light or realize that she should have stopped. She didn’t see the three cars before me cross the intersection, but she was looking straight ahead. This is what we mean when we say drivers suffer cognitive distraction. Their minds are distracted, and they aren’t paying attention.
Within seven months of Joe’s death, my husband, Dave, and I became empty nesters. Our two older sons headed off to college. With this extra time on our hands we engulfed ourselves in research. We were shocked to learn of the numerous studies that clearly identify the increased crash risk associated with drivers using cell phones. That was when Dave closed his consulting firm and decided to get into the safety business. He currently works at the National Safety Council as the senior director of transportation initiatives — focusing specifically on distracted driving and teen driving.
It has been five years and I still miss Joe every day. Holidays and family functions, like weddings, are difficult and will never be like they were before. If I can do anything to prevent even one more family from living with this reality, then it will add meaning and purpose to our loss.Joe was our youngest son. He was a seventh grader who was filled with a vibrant energy and passion for everything he did. He enjoyed computers, video games, school choir, church youth group, skiing, and competing in odyssey of the mind. He was just getting caught up in the whirl-wind of middle school when his life was suddenly and violently taken.
Two days later, on Thanksgiving Day, Erica died. She was just 9-years-old. Driving is a privilege. We owe it to those we share the road with to pay attention and focus on our driving. No call, email or text message is worth more than a life.
Losing Erica left a hole in our family. This amazing little girl who was the center of our world is no longer there making us smile with her silly jokes and funny faces. What hurts most is knowing that this didn’t have to happen. It was completely preventable. It is my personal mission to make sure other families don’t have to go through the pain mine goes through every day.My daughter Erica was nicknamed “Sunshine.” She had a presence and smile that would light up a room. She was known for her knock-knock jokes and funny faces. She loved to draw and wanted to be an artist when she grew up.
My parents, Jay and Jean, were driving me home on May 18, 2008, the day I graduated with Magna Cum Laude honors from Muhlenberg College. We’d made this short trip countless times. At 3:30 in the afternoon an 18-year old young man approached a red light on a road intersecting ours. This young man was talking on his cell phone and momentarily stopped at the red light before turning left onto our road. As he did so the driver of a tractor trailer swerved to miss him and slammed full force into my parents’ car. A paramedic, who lived near by, arrived to find my mother had no heartbeat, my father had a faint heartbeat, and I wasn’t breathing. He shifted my head and I took a gasp for air. It was at least three months later after being told many times when it finally sunk in that the accident that had left me in so much pain and in the hospital had also taken the lives of both my wonderful parents.
After surviving the unthinkable, I found out the crash that crash that killed my parents, and left me severely injured, was caused because of someone talking on his cell phone. I was outraged and got involved with the Pennsylvania congress almost as soon as I was out of the hospital. I’m still too impaired by my remaining handicaps to work, so all of my time is spent in occupational and physical therapy, and telling my horrific story whenever the opportunity arises.
Personal MissionI have to know that this accident happened to me for a reason and that my parents’ deaths weren’t senseless and meaningless. I discovered early in my recovery process that telling my story caused people to change their behavior. I believe my life was spared for a reason, and until families are no longer being forced through the kind of pain that mine was, I will not stop spending every free moment fighting for this cause.My parents were giving in nature and strong in their guidance. My mother was a seventh grade English teacher and my father had been a mechanic at the same company for over 30 years. They both spent all their spare time volunteering and helping the underprivileged.
On the night of May 30, 2007 Cady was driving her best friend home from a movie. They came to an intersection and waited for a green light and proceeded into the intersection when the light changed. Seconds later another 16-year-old girl in an SUV, who was severely distracted, ran through the red light and struck the driver’s side of Cady’s car at nearly 50 mph. Cady was rushed to a local hospital in a critical condition. She died hours later, on May 31st, with her mother, father and uncle by her side. The other driver and Cady’s best friend were treated and released with minor injuries.
Personal MissionDriving away from the hospital devastated from our loss, my wife and I reaffirmed our commitment to each other, our 4 other children’s well being and we both expressed our strong desire to honor Cady’s short life by helping to divert other teens and adults from driving while distracted. Now in its second year, her foundation, the C.A.R. Alliance for Safer Teen Driving, does just that. I am thrilled to be a part of FocusDriven and to reach an even wider audience of teens, parents and concerned adults to help bring awareness to distracted driving as a major cause of deaths and injuries.Cady’s faith was strong and she reveled in connecting with other people her own age and adults. She was known for her warm hugs, her bright and beautiful eyes and her loving smile.
On Jan. 24, 2010, Kelsey was driving home from a sleepover at a friend's house the night before. Her best friend was following her. They had planned to drop Kelsey's car off at home and then jump in her friend's car and go to Walmart for a Coke Frezzy. Kelsey was talking to a friend on her cell phone while driving. She decided to pass a vehicle, but she misjudged the amount of time she had to safely do so. She told her friend, "Oh [expletive], I’m going to crash," and tossed the cell phone in the back seat.
It was the last time anyone would speak to Kelsey.
Unable to avoid an oncoming vehicle, Kelsey lost control and crashed. Despite traveling just 35 mph, the impact was so severe that she died instantly.
Kelsey and her twin sister, Courtney, were insepartable. They did almost everything together. They were looking forward to walking across the stage at graduation together. But, because of a cell phone, Courtney didn't get to walk with her sister. All she had was Kelsey's tassel and her tassel on her hat and an empty seat behind her with Kelsey's hat on it. No cell phone conversation, text, email, check of Facebook update is worth this. And please don't think it couldn't happen to you. If it can happen to a middle class family in a little town, it could happen to you.
Personal MissionThis needs to end. People don't seem to understand the dangers of the cell phone conversation. I didn't. I told my girls not to text and drive. I DID NOT know how dangers a simple conversation on the phone was. Now I do know. Kelsey was talking on her phone when she crashed. I've been working in MI to get a law passed and I won't stop till we have a law. I won't stop till people put down their cell phones and focus on driving. We share the roads and safety should always be our first priority.
I am a "Momma on a Mission." That mission being to save lives. We need to have it the "norm" to put the phone away, or better yet, turn it off, when you get into the vehicle. Just like the "norm" is to put your seatbelt on when you get into a vehicle.
On April 12, 2011 as Amy was stopped at a red light, a vehicle slammed into the back of her car. The driver of the vehicle that struck her never applied his breaks or swerved to avoid the crash. The force of the impact caused a domino effect. Amy's car was pushed into the one in front of her and so on. In all, there were six cars involved in the crash.
We all have a story to tell about cell phone distracted driving. Within a month of my crash, my parents were hit by a teen shuffling songs on his phone. When you are operating a multi-ton vehicle, your number one responsiblity is safety.
I hear the stories from my FocusDriven families and my heart breaks. How do you come to terms with losing someone you love because of something as inconsequential as a cell phone call or a text message? I'm on a mission to give those families an opportunity to share their stories.