April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Every year around this time safe driving becomes a topic of discussion. Particularly, the issue of distracted driving by cell phones. Many people, especially if they work for a company that has fleet vehicles, will notice the topic come up on a work newsletter or see a news story segment on tv. But does anyone know why April became the month the country rallies around raising awareness about this issue?
Meet Shelley Forney: a Mother and safety advocate and speaker from Fort Collins, CO. On November 25th, 2008, her life was forever changed due to a person looking down at their cell phone while driving an SUV. Her daughter, Erica, was 9 years of age at the time and was riding her bike home from school when she was struck head on. She was only 15 pedals from home.
This and countless other stories about distracted driving are far too common and unacceptable in today’s safety-centric world. Back in 2008, cell phone distraction had not been described as an “epidemic” and there were no news stories that covered the issue. Erica left her family 2 days after the accident on Thanksgiving day. What Erica’s Mother did next changed the course of the issue forever.
Shelley Forney can be described as a special kind of human being. To the average person, having suffered a tragedy like this would curl them into a ball of pain. Shelley on the other hand, decided to take the pain head-on and speak about what had happened to her. The only thing she knew was that the story of Erica was 100% avoidable, and if she could tell her story to enough people, it would save another person from having to live through what her and her family had.
“Hearing a personal story of loss by the family living it makes a lasting impression. My goal is to change the social perception of cell phone use and driving. Together let’s pledge to be cell phone free drivers.” ~Shelley Forney
There was an enormous amount of work to do. Shelley went on to found a distracted driving advocacy group named Focus Driven and became an independent contract safety speaker.
She would continue to speak to audiences for the next 10 years. She appeared on Oprah, Larry King Live, and many other shows and events to tell the story of Erica to the world. Erica’s story caught the attention of Representative Betsy Markey (D-CO), and in early 2010, she was invited to Washington DC to speak at a safety conference.
Coinciding with the conference, a resolution was being voted on that would help Shelley’s efforts. On March 23rd, 2010 House Resolution 1186 passed with an overwhelming majority of 410 to 2, and Rep. Betsy Markey presented the news to Shelley in person.
Expressing support for designation of April as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
Resolved, That the House of Representatives –
There are many speakers like Shelley who have dedicated their lives to raising awareness through telling their own story, and we would like to honor them today.
If you feel that your work place, community group, or school would benefit from hearing Shelley speak, please check our directory of distracted driving safety speakers and help them in their mission to share their story and save lives.
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