Parents of Jackson Twp. teen killed in texting-while-driving crash help launch campaign
Just a couple days after their daughter died in a crash likely caused by her texting, Scott and Karen Stambaugh knew what they had to do.
"Believe me, I'd rather be anywhere than here, talking about the loss of my daughter, Ashlyn," Scott Stambaugh said, addressing the couple dozen people who sat in Spring Grove Area High School's library Tuesday morning during a news conference announcing the start of a campaign to persuade people not to text while they drive. "I didn't choose to be a spokesperson for texting and driving, but because of her loss, I believe we need to speak for her."
Ashlyn died in March at age 17 after she lost control of her car while going around a curve in the road; her car rolled and struck a telephone pole.
She'd been on her way to pick up one of her friends, and right before the crash she sent the friend a quick text, saying she had arrived. Though the text was brief, it distracted the Spring Grove Area School District junior enough that she crashed, authorities and her parents have said.
"She made a poor choice that cost her her life," her father said Tuesday. "I'm sure she thought she could get away with it — that nothing would happen to her.
"'I got this,' she would say. How many of us have thought the same thing?"
Campaign: Her family wanted to help with the campaign to try to make sure other families don't have to suffer the way they have, they said.
"It is our hopes to get through to at least one person that their loved ones don't need to go through the tragedy, the heartache that we will forever endure," Karen Stambaugh said.
The most important part of the campaign is the suggestion that everyone download the safe-driving smartphone apps their phone providers have made, said Wayne Harper, who's in charge of the York County Center for Traffic Safety.
Each cellphone provider has a different one, and they can be found with a quick search, he said.
When active, these apps detect when the phone is moving above a certain speed, and answer any texts with a standard response indicating the person was driving and would get back to them later.
Hence the name of the campaign: "Here...but driving."
"It's so they don't feel that urgent need to text back while driving," Harper said.
Pledge: Another part of the campaign is encouraging people to sign a pledge promising they won't text and drive. Rosemary Cugliari, the high school's principal, said almost 900 kids had signed pledges that morning that they wouldn't text while they drove.
"That's more students than even are driving at this point in time," she said.
The Stambaughs hope people keep their words.
"We encourage everyone to take the pledge — not just to sign it, but to follow through with it," Karen Stambaugh said.
Everyone who's signed up is entered to win a $25 gift card from State Farm, one of the campaign's sponsors.
The campaign was generated by the York Area Highway Safety Council's Safe Teen Driving Committee, and also received the sponsorship of WellSpan.
Anyone can sign the pledge at the Here But Driving Facebook page — facebook.com/herebutdriving.
After all, "It's many people, not just teenagers" who text behind the wheel, Karen Stambaugh said.
And all of them are risking leaving behind those who love and would miss them, as Ashlyn did.
"The last thing I would have to say to her is that she's what's beautiful in my heart," Karen said, putting a hand to her chest. "Then, now and always."
— Reach Sean Cotter at firstname.lastname@example.org.