National Teen Driver Safety Week
October 15-21 marks National Teen Driver Safety Week, a week the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration created to raise awareness of the tremendous risks teens face on the roads. The Lutzie 43 Foundation in partnership with the Georgia Department of Transportation (Georgia DOT), addresses teen driver safety by delivering Safe Driving Summits across the state of Georgia. Annie Gwinn, Lola Peck and Riley Smith authored this guest blog about the importance of these events and why they brought a Safe Driving Summit to their entire student body at Cherokee Bluff High School in Flowery Branch, Georgia.
Our passion for being ambassadors for safe driving is rooted in the loss of a young girl from our community. On October 30, 2022, we had a mutual friend lose her life in a tragic distracted driving crash. She was a teenage girl, just like the three of us. A girl from the same town, the same age, with the same interests and who ran within the same friend groups as we did. The impact that this horrific event had on our community, affecting us and our closest friends and family, was devastating. It was at this time that the importance of safe driving was put into perspective for us and our community. We realized that safe driving wasn’t just following the speed limit and not driving impaired, but it’s about taking the initiative to put the phone completely away, to turn the music down, and to not call or text others when we know they are driving. Safe driving became a message that we felt responsible for sharing.
Through research and furthering our education on unsafe driving, we knew we wanted to work with a local organization. We shortly discovered the Lutzie 43 Foundation. Not only were they a local nonprofit, but the story and mission felt personal. Philip’s story struck all of us. From the way that the Lutzenkirchen family talks about him and the things that we have researched, Philip was an incredible person, not only an amazing football player but a great representation of a man guided by faith. That is what stuck out the most to us. We loved and appreciated that the Lutzie 43 Foundation was guided by family and faith.
When we heard that the Lutzie 43 Foundation and Georgia DOT were hosting a Safe Driving Summit in our backyard at Lanier Technical College, we instantly knew we needed to attend on behalf of Cherokee Bluff High School. We knew we would learn about the dangers of distracted, impaired and unsafe driving, but more importantly how we could bring this information back to our school and community. We were impressed with the way the Safe Driving Summit was run and how educational it was. It showed us how driving is extremely dangerous and even when following all the rules, someone can still get hurt. We wanted our peers at Cherokee Bluff High School to learn about the 43 Key Seconds safe driving initiative and bring safety, and awareness to our school and community. With the help of our administration, we decided to host the first ever all-school Safe Driving Summit as part of our Senior Capstone Project through the LEGACY Program, a leadership-based program that focuses on servant leadership at Cherokee Bluff High School.
The most important thing that we all wanted attendees of the all-school Cherokee Bluff High School Safe Driving Summit to take away was that the Lutzie 43 Foundation is a real story with real people. The Lutzenkirchen’s story shows that distracted, impaired and unsafe driving impacts everyone and it puts into perspective the individual’s life. Our student body got to hear from our mayor, a young crash survivor, first responders on the front lines in our community, and a safety engineer at the Georgia DOT who shared accounts of the substantial amount of car crashes that happen. We wanted our student body to understand the importance and weight of this topic and leave the day understanding what it means to take 43 Key Seconds to ensure they were practicing safe driving when they left the school that day, and any other time they are driving.
We all plan on carrying out what we’ve learned from the Lutzie 43 Foundation as we head off to college next year. We all will continue to be ambassadors for safe driving and share with our communities the importance of this message, and hopefully get underclassmen at Cherokee Bluff High School to host more all-school Safe Driving Summits for years to come.