On October 29, 2017, Jean Claude Wishard was driving on a two-lane highway on his way home from his family’s farm when a distracted driver with a provisional permit crashed into him from the opposite lane. With headlights coming at him at 57 miles per hour, Jean Claude attempted to turn his car into a nearby ditch, but he was killed upon impact.
Jean Claude was a passionate outdoorsman, spending much of his time at the Wishard family farm in South Dakota. There, he was involved with planting trees for the USDA Farm Service Agency’s Conservation Reserve Program, and participating in one of his favorite hobbies — hunting.
As a computer programmer, Jean Claude made sure to carve out time to step away from his desk and focus on athletics. His sister, Danielle Wishard-Tudor, recalls him working out every day, weightlifting for fun and prioritizing his health. “He should have lived to be 110, but a distracted driver took that away from him,” she said.
Above all else, he was a loving father of two beautiful children. Out of all of those who miss Jean Claude, his children are at the top of the list.
Since Jean Claude’s death and after seeing a photo in the newspaper of other distracted driving victims’ families holding photos of their lost loved ones, Danielle has been driven towards activism. “It really hit home that there’s other people like me who can feel my pain and can understand my anger,” she said.
Now, Danielle works tirelessly to fight against distracted driving. In 2018, she became involved with advocating for a hands-free bill in Minnesota. In January 2019, she testified along with many other advocates, before the Minnesota Congress, where her words were instrumental in the passing of the law, which makes having a cellphone or other electronic device in your hand while driving illegal in the state. The Hands-Free Law went into effect in August 2019.
While passing this law was a huge achievement for Danielle, her motivation has not stopped there. She volunteers for the AAA victim’s panel where she shares her brother’s story to educate teens and parents. “I talk about the ownership that any one of us could get distracted. The power of how we’re going to change distracted driving is remembering that we all are capable of this and it’s up to us to be responsible drivers. When you get [behind] the wheel of a car, your job is to concentrate on the road because other people’s lives are depending on you,” she said.
Additionally, Danielle has recently paid for an “Adopt-a-Highway” sign where Jean Claude was killed after hearing of another fatality due to distracted driving on the same two-mile stretch of road. The sign will be dedicated to Jean Claude and in loving memory of her brother, the inspiration behind all of her activism.