by Shari Reynolds
May has always been a month to celebrate the gift of my five children. Each are different and precious to me in their own way. However, the month of May represents something very different for me now. It represents unnecessary and deep loss that will never heal.
From the very first moment I held her she was a part of my heart and soul. She was the kind of daughter that every parent should have. She wanted to please and she had a light in her soul that you could see in her eyes; and a genuine smile that melted your heart.
She cared for people, too, especially the ones that needed to be cared for (the lonely, elderly, the sick, the poor). She had dreams for her life too and I had expectations for a future full of success, relationships and hopefully someday grandchildren.
On the night that changed my life I kissed her goodbye and told her to be safe but this night her safety was not in my hands. A distracted teen driver was making decisions that night that would determine her destiny. The phone call came late, past curfew. A teen driver ran a red light, never trying to stop before crashing into her door at almost 50 miles per hour.
She died on May 31, 2007 at the young age of 16, leaving a lifetime in front of her. I sat by her bed as the light, the life, the girl that I so loved left this world. She would never hug me again; I would never smell her or hear her voice again. My beautiful and compassionate daughter was dead. Her name is Cady Anne Reynolds and she is my first child. She has three sisters and one brother and her death still echoes in our community like ripples across a pool of water.
We started a foundation in her name to reach out to teens and their parents to talk about what things increase a teen’s chances of causing a crash like this. Among the risk factors are inexperience, other teen passengers, mobile phones and night driving. Some states have passed laws for new drivers that address these issues and others like mandatory seatbelt use and driving curfews.
On average 11 teens die each day in the U.S. in crashes and they are nearly all preventable. It’s clear that in states where these rules exist for new drivers, crash rates are reduced by as much as 40% in this age group (15-20). The stronger the laws the better the crash rate reduction is, generally.
Allstate is leading a national call-to-action called “Save 11” urging Congress to pass the STANDUP Act (“Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection”) to help reduce teen-related crashes and save lives. You can show support for this by contacting your Members of Congress and urge them to pass the bill. I invite you to learn more by visiting facebook.com/save11.
It is my prayer that no parent sees one of their children die in a crash but I know that until we address this as the epidemic that it is, crashes will continue to be (by far) the number one killer of teens in the U.S. The STANDUP Act would enforce stronger, more uniform graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws across the U.S. and it would save lives.
Our family will go to the cemetery this month to remember our daughter and so I can tell her, again, how much I love and miss her. I hope that my prayer reaches your heart.
For more about Cady’s foundation or to donate, go to: www.saferteendriving.org
Shari Reynolds’ oldest daughter Cady, a high school sophomore, was killed in a car crash on May 31st of 2007 when another teen driver who was severely distracted ran through a red light. The Reynolds created a foundation in her name — The C.A.R. Alliance for SafterTeenDriving — through which they reach out to teens and their parents to educate and raise awareness about the risks of distracted teen driving. Shari and her family are currently lending their support to “Save 11”, a national call-to-action to support the STANDUP (Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection) Act.