PALMDALE – A visibly emotional Angela Hefter sent a heartfelt message to the community Monday: Don’t text and drive!
“We don’t want other people to suffer what we have suffered,” said Hefter. “We want people to make sure that they make positive choices in life.”
The Hefter family joined Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford and several county and state agencies Monday for a press conference to announce the proclamation of September 12, 2011 as “Don’t Text and Drive Day” in the City of Palmdale in memory of Jacob Hefter.
Three years ago on September 12, 2008, 18-year-old Jacob was one of 25 people killed in the Metrolink train accident in Chatsworth.
The investigation revealed the Metrolink engineer ignored a red light signal because he was texting on his cell phone.
“Our goal is to honor Jacob’s life by sending a message locally, statewide and nationally… don’t text and drive,” said Ledford. “Very simple, but so important.”
Citing National Safety Council estimates, Community Safety Supervisor Kelly Long said 1.4 million crashes each year are caused by drivers using cell phones or texting while driving.
“Parents, we implore you to take this message home to your student, to your family members, to your teenagers who are now on the roads with their phones texting and driving,” said Long. “Please do not text and drive.”
Those who ignore the message will pay the price, said law enforcement officials.
“On behalf of the Palmdale station, for those of you out there that still practice this, we are going to do everything in our power to help prevent this,” said Lt. Paul Clay of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Palmdale Station. Clay said there were 2,400 cell phone violations (including texting and driving) last year and more than 1,600 violations for 2011.
The California Highway Patrol is also cracking down on distracted drivers. Through September 19th, the department will be conducting focused enforcement on distracted drivers.
“This program was designed to impact teens, but I believe this message is for everyone,” said CHP Officer Steve Urrea. “Parents this is for you, please remember that we are the example for our children, they are watching us and it’s up to us to set the good example for them.”
In setting a good example, the Hefter family (through the Jacob Hefter Foundation) is inviting the community to make the pledge to not text and drive by signing a 1984 Chevy Blazer that Jacob once drove.
The Foundation provides residents with a signature card to put their signature on the blazer as a pledge to not text and drive, then residents are given a thumb ring that says “Text Free Driver.”
“Jacob’s brothers decided to make that a moving message and take it everywhere we can,” said Angela Hefter. “We invite everyone, at all points in time, whenever they can, and wherever our blazer may be, to take the pledge.”