February 25, 2011
by Mark Horner
Everything seemed to be lining-up perfectly for three Lake Washington High School students as they prepared to share their new knowledge about the dangers of texting while driving. The three seniors began their research in early January by studying eye-opening statistics about TWD. They had grown to feel emotionally connected to Wendy Lerch, the mother of a 19-year-old woman killed in a texting crash south of Olympia last year. Mrs. Lerch had responded to the students’ e-mails and she had answered their questions.
This week marked the first anniversary of Heather Lerch’s death. And her crumpled car was on display Tuesday, Wednesday and today at Lake Washington High. Seniors Shannon Bebee, Taylor LaFave and Kaylin Wilson had worked hard to make it so. This was the culmination of their project.
But on February 18, another young woman died texting while driving in Heather’s hometown. Police say 22-year-old Ashley R. Jones-Davis crossed the center line and struck an oncoming truck. The driver of the truck was not injured.
Rochester, Washington rests on a little more than 2 square miles of land. Yet the town of less than 2,000 people is connected to two TWD fatalities in just short of a year.
No, things didn’t line-up quite perfectly for the Lake Washington project. But the very recent loss of Ashley’s life heightened the students’ sense of urgency for sharing their new message: Don’t let an LOL become an OMG.
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.”