Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Letter to Jennifer Smith, Advocate and a Personal Hero

I was excited last week to see more fans joining the Distracted Driving Awareness movement via our FaceBook page. One of the newest fans has also, to quote her web site, "been one of the leading advocates against distracted driving since her mother was killed by a driver talking on a cell phone on Sept. 3, 2008. She was the one of the founding board members and past President of FocusDriven and now continues to work to prevent this dangerous epidemic from happening to others by sharing her story and the science and latest research behind the dangers of driving while distracted. Jennifer also consults with families who have lost loved ones or been injured by a distracted driver so they can start their own grassroots efforts to change the culture of our society." Here is the letter I sent to Jennifer Smith this morning:

Dear Jennifer,

Please picture in your mind that I am standing up and applauding you for all of your efforts to bring about awareness of the epidemic that is distracted driving. I also send you a heart-felt hug of comfort for the loss of your beautiful mother, my deepest condolences. Unfortunately, I was not even aware of this killer until I lost my beautiful 38-year-old sister Gayla to a distracted truck driver on March 19, 2011. Thank you for becoming a fan of my FaceBook page and for letting me know about the summit…I wish I could have been there. I would like to ask you a couple of things. Would you write a guest post on the blog that I created, Also, how can I partner with you to help with the distracted driving awareness movement?

Gayla was my sister, but she was also my best friend, my rock. She was the oldest child in our close-knit family of five. My parents are beyond devastated, and my brother and I feel their pain as it is like a whole section of who we are is missing. Sister was the most amazing amount of sunshine within a gorgeous soul the world could ever imagine. I speak in hyperbole because to understand the depth of this chasm of pain our family, friends and I now suffer, you must first understand the immense joy we had in our lives when Gayla was here. 

It has been more than a year since Sister was killed. Each holiday and special occasion and for that matter any given day in the last year of our lives has been heartbreak without Gayla. Even when I lived in New York in 2000, I never went more than a couple of months without seeing my sister, and now a year has become an eternity without her. Every day it feels like this hole in my heart just gets bigger and bigger.

Gayla was killed by a distracted truck driver. He told the authorities he looked down to put his tractor trailer back into gear as he down shifted in stalled and sluggish traffic rather than braking. No one was in that 18-wheeler's cab but our lawyer has indicated that there might have been a cellular device involved. It could have been a moment to look down to find a new radio station or balance a toppling coffee cup while dashboard dining. Regardless, that truck driver was doing something that distracted him from his job...driving his rig safely. He plowed into the rear of Sister's little mid-sized sedan sending her barreling into a wire guardrail. The impact broke her neck and killed her instantly and robbed this family of our Gayla.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope that I can work with you to bring about the changes that so desperately need to happen to help prevent our tragedies from repeating themselves and destroying other families.

Jaimee Hunter

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