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.

Inspired by one texting tragedy, Lake Washington students fight back as another strikes

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.

Reggie’s story: 10-minutes that could save a life

August 26, 2010

by Mark Horner

What if you were told that 10-minutes of your time could save a life? And–just maybe–your own life. Or your kid’s. Or your dad’s. Yes, mom’s life, too.

10-minutes free of labor.
10-minutes devoid of any request for a single penny.
10-minutes simply spent sitting…and watching.

Okay—if you’ve peeked at the tags on this post—your hunch is correct. This is a video about texting while driving.

Maybe you already feel bombarded by the anti “TWD” campaigns. But you’ve probably never seen a video quite like this one. It’ll strip-away any lurking numbness from the topic.

This is Reggie Shaw’s story. And the story of the people he killed. And their families.

10-minutes. Not a second wasted.

Please watch, and perhaps, another life won’t be wasted.

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.”