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Lutzie 43
Lutzie 43
June 28, 2019

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Why 43 Key Seconds?

The month of June has proven to be a difficult one for our family. It begins with Philip’s birthday on June 1st, a day that should be celebrated; but we close out the month with June 29th, a day that triggers painful reminders of Philip losing his life on June 29, 2014. We don’t intend to be rude or unthankful when we say “no, thanks” to any event or invite that occurs on June 29th, but throughout the day we will, as a family and individually, have moments of anger and heartbrokenness, cry tears of sadness and sorrow, and ask “why” with hopes we’ve matured in knowing Philip would want us to smile due to incredible memories of our son, brother and gift from God.  

Auburn Football game philip lutzenkirchen in front of crowd

I often get asked, “Why pivot from the foundation’s original focus? Why 43 Seconds? Why move away from sharing Philip’s character and the honest truth of the elements that took his and a friend’s life?” 

We are proud of our accomplishments, naming only a few; ‘43 Lessons to Legacy’ character development curriculum (soon to be available digitally), awarding of twenty-eight $4,300 PFL (Prepared for Life) scholarships to deserving high school & college students, sharing our talk to 180,000+ audiences and lastly, sharing joy and blessings with 1,500+ elementary school age Adaptive PE students through our field days. 

But, let me ask, what symbol reminds you to be a safe driver or, said another way, not be a distracted or impaired driver?

There are clever, recognizable slogans; “Drive sober or get pulled over” or “Click it or ticket.” But there is no true symbol.   

When I ask an audience of high school students in an assembly, college students in a football film room or fraternity or sorority house, or adults during a corporate outing or annual association conference what the color pink means, the quick and #1 reply is breast cancer.  I follow up with a question about what Livestrong means, and even young audiences reply “Lance Armstrong” or “the bike rider for cancer awareness.”  If I were to show you the Wounded Warrior Project logo almost everyone, regardless of age, responds “that’s to take care of our injured soldiers or military.” 

“So what is the national symbol you recognize that reminds you to not drive distracted or impaired,” I ask as to close our the game of word association.

Regardless of audience, the immediate response is a blank stare or a less than confident response of “a phone?” 

Simply put – a national symbol symbol does not exist.

Our national leaders on highway safety use crises and epidemics to describe the number of crashes and fatalities due to distracted and impaired driving. Crises and epidemics are appropriate choices to describe the #1 killer of our teens ages 16 to 18.

This lack of visual representation had me thinking that we needed a clever and visual trigger, something that will catch your attention. A visual symbol when combined with meaning and purpose behind it could change the narrative on the avoidable crashes and fatalities due to distracted and impaired driving. This representation, with the support of high schools, colleges, corporations, associations across the full spectrum of vertical markets, and the government and law enforcement agencies, could be a game changer. My hope is that our foundation, through Philip’s life and legacy, can be strong and bold enough to change this narrative, which brought me to the creation of 43 Key Seconds. 

43 Keys Seconds is a grassroots initiative with a goal of getting the physical 43 keys in cars around the nation. 43 Key Seconds consists of a decorative key labeled 43 Key Seconds on one side of the key with 43 To Distracted-Free on the opposite side.  The key is placed on a lanyard with alternating phrases repeating 43 Key Seconds and 43 To Distracted Free. The key is a TOOL!  A visual tool to signal a trigger within us to implement a behavioral change – and ultimately be a non-distracted and non-impaired drivers. 

The key and lanyard are accompanied by our 43 Key Seconds Countdown:

  • Clear Head (free of alcohol or drug impairment, not emotional impaired and not fatigued)
  • Clear Hands (you’ve completed your texting, emailing, facebook live, your dashboard – gps and music are set)
  • Clear Eyes (you are focused on the road not your phone, radio or passengers)
  • Click it!  (you and your passengers – front and back seat are buckled)

The 43 Key Seconds Countdown is to occur every time we get into our vehicle before we turn the key. I challenge you to take 43 Key Seconds over the next 21 days and see if it can become an impactful, positive habit. 

The sleepless nights following Philip’s death went away and were replaced with confident days and thoughts of partnering with the right organizations and supporters so that 43 Key Seconds can (and will) become our nationally recognized symbol not to be a distracted and impaired driver. Our early results are in and they are encouraging! 

This encouragement is fueled by the fact that everyone from age 13 up knows what distracted driving is. Now, during talks, 100% of hands reach for the sky when asked “Who knows what distracted driving is?”. But even scarier, eighty percent of hands go up when asked who has been a distracted driver within the past 48 hours. And when I know there is still work to be done is when kids are asked if their parent is a distracted driver – the result usually averages around 80% of hands raised. 

Our encouragement is fueled by requests from high schools, colleges, corporations, associations and law enforcement asking to co-brand our key and lanyards with their own recognizable logos. 43 Key Seconds or the #43, if done right, will become the nationally recognized symbol that changes the narrative on avoidable crashes and fatalities due to distracted and impaired driving.

In my heart, sometime in the near future, a 16-year-old new driver in Portland, Maine and an experienced adult driving in Portland, Oregon will get in their vehicle, see our key on their lanyard and know that #43 is their prompt to drive free of any distractions or impairments. Most likely, neither will ever know the origin of why #43 is our national symbol to combat distracted and impaired driving or who Philip Lutzenkirchen is, or why we use Auburn’s blue & orange colors. But they will know to take 43 Key Seconds before they start their vehicle and will change their behavior when tempted to text & drive, drink and drive, drive intoxicated, ignore state graduated driver laws, and not only wear their seatbelt but have the courage to tell all passengers to buckle up. 

Selfishly, as a father who lost his son and best friend I pen this blog through tears boldly, confidently and with hope that I’ve answered “Why 43 Key Seconds?” 

So, let me end with asking you a question…will you help us get keys in cars?  

– Mike Lutzenkirchen

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