It wasn't until September 30, 2009, that I realized I was not alone. And, while I may have arrived at the first Distracted Driving Summit alone, I left with new friends and resources to support me as I came to grips with the devastation of losing my mother to a distracted driver.
That day was about a year after the crash that killed my mother, an event that obviously changed my life and the lives of my family forever. At that first summit, I was asked to speak, along with six families who were feeling the same loss and devastation. I was thinking mostly about what the crash that killed my mother had put an end to. Little did I know that this Summit would be the beginning of something new for me.
It was that day I met Secretary LaHood. Through his generosity and his desire to do something about this deadly epidemic, we created a friendship. A friendship built on the desire to put an end to cell phone driver distraction. And, in 2010 at the second National Distracted Driving Summit, he honored me by asking me to deliver the closing remarks on behalf of victims' families across the country.
For thousands of families every year, distracted driving takes the life of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, husbands and wives, significant others, friends, and the list goes on. By sharing our stories since that first summit, we've been trying to motivate you to make a change in your driving behavior.
I am privileged to share my commitment with the many families who have shared a similar loss, but none of us are happy to have had this dumped into our lives by someone else's single moment of inattention. Forming a bond with these families has been the fuel to keep me working to bring grassroots awareness to the state level.
Most recently we founded a collaborative grassroots initiative known as Distraction Advocate Network (DAN). Founded in 2012, DAN strives to be a hub that empowers the families of victims, organizations, foundations, and individuals to collaborate as we raise awareness and educate others. Through the DAN website, you can gather information and access useful links and resources, find out about upcoming events and stay up-to-date on the latest news.
We've been telling our stories now for years. You've heard them--on Oprah, on your local news, right here on Secretary LaHood's Fast Lane blog. If you find these stories compelling, you don't need to stand on the sidelines; check out our website to get involved and see how you can contribute to the movement for driving safety.
The most meaningful part of this difficult journey has been to form a network of advocates. We've learned that together we can make a difference. We share together, cry together, and fight together for improved road safety.
That's why the most important thing I can say today is that, if you have been affected by distracted driving, you are not alone. You are already a member of this group. So, please reach out to us. Visit our website and fill out the contact form and connect with us.
Finally, I want to thank Secretary LaHood for his leadership and direction in this fight to end distracted driving crashes, injuries and fatalities. Four years ago, distracted driving was not on the radar of anyone but those of us who had suffered the loss of a loved one. The Secretary's efforts have helped create tremendous momentum. The fight continues.