US Transportation Secretary showcases DOL video in effort to combat distracted driving

July 12, 2011

by Mark Horner

When the Department of Licensing produced a video about a 19-year-old Thurston County woman killed in a distracted driving crash, many of you took notice.  Now, the nation’s top transportation official has noticed, too.

This week,  US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood added our video about Heather Lerch to the US DOT’s Faces of Distraction website.  Lerch died instantly after her car left the road on February 23, 2010. 

Only a few weeks after their daughter’s death, Dan and Wendy Lerch shared their story with us on-camera, hoping to convince others not to text and drive. They said that they have no doubt that Heather had been texting behind the wheel when she crashed.

 On his blog this week, LaHood writes:

“Recording this video was obviously very painful for Dan and Wendy, and I can’t thank them enough. I hope that everyone who hears their story will remember to keep their eyes on the road, their hands on the wheel, and their focus on driving.”

 
Since the DOL first published the video on its YouTube channel in April of 2010, Heather’s mangled car has been on display at many public places, to include several high schools.

The DOL produced two versions of Heather’s story; a 30-second Public Service Announcement, and a longer video that runs about five-and-a-half  minutes. The US DOT is showcasing the longer video.

Last year, the DOL and State Patrol also featured Heather’s story  in their efforts to inform the public about a new state law that makes the illegal use of a cell phone while driving a primary offense.


Car in texting fatal crash on display at state capitol

May 5, 2010

by Mark Horner

“I’m getting chills as I read this.”

Those words this morning from one passerby as she paused to look at a mangled car and read the story on a nearby poster.

The car was driven by 19-year-old Heather Lerch earlier this year.  Her parents say Heather was texting when the vehicle left the road and struck a guardrail, killing the young woman instantly.  The February 23rd crash unfolded shortly before 10:30pm on Littlerock Road in Thurston County.

The vehicle is one of numerous displays on the plaza of the Capitol Campus in Olympia today where Public Service Recognition Week is being recognized.

The Department of Licensing recently produced two videos about Heather’s story.  A new state law concerning cell phones takes effect June 10.  The law makes texting while driving a primary offense.  It also makes using a hand-held cell for phone calls while driving a primary offense.


Parents say daughter was texting when killed in crash

April 30, 2010

By Mark Horner

In the days that followed a horrific crash on Thurston County’s Littlerock Road in late February, small articles  in local papers reported that 19-year-old Heather Lerch had been speeding when her car struck a guardrail at roughly 60 miles per hour.  The young woman who’d graduated with honors last year from Tumwater High School died instantly.

But there is more to this story.

Having pieced together information from police, the coroner and phone records, Dan and Wendy Lerch say they’re now convinced that their daughter was texting when her car left the road.

“There’s no doubt in my mind.  Texting was 100-percent involved,” Dan Lerch said.

It’s why the Lerch’s have agreed to appear in a Department of Licensing video with a simple message:  Don’t text or do anything else that can distract you while driving. The video (seen below) is about 5 1/2 minutes in length.  A separate 30-second public service announcement also features footage from the video.

The state of Washington is taking aim at distracted drivers.  A new cell phone law goes into effect in June.  It’ll make talking or sending text messages while holding a wireless device a primary traffic offense.

“Pay attention to the road.  Pay attention to your surroundings,” Dan Lerch began.  “Distractions are everywhere from reader boards and signs that flash in front of you on the road to your cell phones and iPods and your buddy asking you, ‘What are you going to do now?’  Is it worth your life?”

That’s the part of the message that lends itself to words.  Losing a child is another matter.

“There are no words, at all,” Wendy Lerch shared.  “It’s a nightmare you keep thinking you’re going to wake up from.”

 


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