Dan and Wendy Lerch are the bravest people I have met in a long time. They stood in front of television cameras today and answered questions about the most horrible night of their life, the night their daughter Heather died.
Heather was killed in a one-car crash this February. Her parents matched police reports and phone records and determined she was texting and driving at the time of the crash. Innocuous texts, trivial texts, "cool, let's hang out some time" kind of texts, just meaningless teenage blather that cost Heather her life and Dan and Wendy a daughter.
Now the parents are stepping up to the challenge of moving on with their lives and using the tragedy to educate others about the dangers of "distracted driving," in particular, driving while phoning or texting.
They are the focus of a Public Service Announcement produced by the State Department of Licensing and are allowing Heather's car to be displayed publicly to show how dangerous it is to take your eyes off the road.
"We see them all the time" says Dan. "Texting. Texting and driving. Crossing lanes of traffic, impeding other drivers. It's something that's a reality. Look at my daughter's car."
"Maybe we can save some other people's lives," said Wendy, pointing to the crumpled mess where her daughter lost her life. "They see that and that's real."
The Lerch's were part of a presentation by the DOL, Washington State Patrol and State Senator Tracey Edie who worked to get a new law on the books that will make texting or phoning while driving (unless hands-free) a primary and ticketable offense. That law takes effect June 10 - not soon enough for Dan and Wendy Lerch, two grieving parents who are breaking through their personal pain to warn others about the dangers of the road.