Yesterday, thousands of you read about AT&T's powerful anti-texting campaign where relatives of victims share the final text that caused their loved one's death.
Today, I want to talk about a different kind of distracted driving and a different kind of hero, Cheryl Miller of Illinois.
All she wants is a memorial marker for her son Adam. Here is Adam's story in her words:
On November 15, 2008, a driver reached down to pick up a just-purchased cigar that rolled off his passenger seat. He decided to do this as he sped 10 miles over the posted speed limit of 45 mph.
The black box recorder from his car says he never touched the brakes as he plowed into the back of a stationary car whose warning lights were flashing with the inside lights on as well. Inside the car, my husband was calling to tell me our car had a flat tire. He and Adam needed me to pick them up. Then came the impact...the impact that left my husband's nose broken by the slight frame of his glasses,...the impact that pushed our car 173 feet and that left a 3+ foot intrusion into the back of our car, the impact that killed my beautiful 5 year old boy.
In accordance with the laws of Illinois, my son's death was handled in petty traffic court. The driver was convicted of speeding and failure to read road conditions. He was given a ticket. No jail time, no community service, no remedial drivers education, a ticket. My beautiful 5 year old boy.
How difficult is it to get a road-sign posted to memorialize the victim of a distracted driver?
Well, it turns out that, unless the driver was drunk, it's impossible. Unless you want to fight a heroic battle to change Illinois' Roadside Memorial Act.
And that is exactly what Cheryl Miller has been doing for over a year.
By telling her story everywhere she could, from Facebook to blogs and even to the Oprah Winfrey Show, Cheryl succeeded in building a network of Illinoisans to press their State Senators to keep Senate Bill 3803 moving through the Senate and--finally--to vote for it.
Now, however, her fight must continue, and she will have to rally those same supporters to reach out to their State Representatives. Without a rest, Cheryl will get back to work urging people to asking their legislators to back Illinois House Sponsor Sid Mathias and keep that bill moving forward.
As Cheryl says, "I want to thank Jim Dodge of State Senator John Cullerton's office for his help, but now it's time to get back to work to keep this moving on the other side."
Loss is loss. And whatever kind of unsafe behavior led to that loss, a marker offers an effective way of remembering the victim and helping to educate drivers about safer practices.
Picking up an item that has rolled off the seat. This is not a case of cell phone use or texting at the wheel; this is an ordinary, garden-variety distraction.
But listen to Cheryl's words carefully--"he decided to do this"--and it becomes clear that these acts are choices whether drivers give them a second thought or not. And, worst of all, these unsafe choices often have grave consequences--they make grieving mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, wives, and husbands out of ordinary people.
Cheryl Miller never wanted to be a hero. She wanted to be a mother. And today, fighting for Illinois Senate Bill 3803, she will tell you she is only doing what comes naturally to her. She is being Adam's mother.