Several days after the 6th anniversary of Casey’s death I was pleased to carry our EndDD program into New Mexico. I spoke at CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Sante Fe and also presented at the annual Safer New Mexico Law Enforcement Coordinators Symposium in Albuquerque.
I had been thinking about Casey and the day we learned that she had been killed. Looking at the room filled with police officers in Albuquerque, I was reminded of the officers who were with us in the hospital when Casey died and who have supported us ever since. I told the New Mexico police officers that for me and my wife, we view our lives in two very distinct segments – before and after Casey’s death. Many in the audience had done death notifications. For myself and other affected family members, I thanked them for performing that very difficult, yet vitally important task that symbolized the dividing point in our lives and in the lives of so many others who have lost loved ones.
We talked about the demands placed on police officers, driving demands made more difficult by communication demands with computers, radios and cell phones. We also talked about the difference between being a safe driver and a lucky driver. I think what resonated the most was when I talked about how we as adults, and they particularly as police officers, could lead by example for our most inexperienced drivers, our children. “What do you think teens would think if they saw a police officer stopped, pulled over to the side of the road, to use a cell phone,” I asked. They agreed that it would send a clear message that cell phone use while driving is not safe. Many were parents and had to admit that they had driven distracted with their children in the car.
After the talk I have received several e-mails from police officers stating that they went home and spoke with spouses, partners and children and committed to change the way they drive for their loved ones and themselves.
I am looking forward to returning to New Mexico to be joined by police officers in presenting our EndDD program at schools and businesses in their communities. I am optimistic that the candor of the officers as to their own previous risk-taking while driving and subsequent changed behaviors will have a strong impact on New Mexico teens.