Like many 19-year-olds, Heather Lerch of Rochester, WA, had plans. Having recently
graduated from Tumwater High School, she had her whole life ahead of her. She was
a first-year student at Centralia College, hoping to pursue a career in forensics
and criminal justice. She had just celebrated a birthday, had bought herself a new
car, and had an address book full of friends in her cell phone.
On February 23, 2010, the text messages that she often exchanged with those friends
cost her crucial seconds of attention to the road. While driving home from work
as she had done hundreds of times, Heather approached a bend in the road. But she
was texting, saw the bend too late, and crashed through the guardrail. The impact
caused the driver’s side door to collapse several feet inside the vehicle. Heather
was killed instantly. She died just 3 miles from her house.
“I had seen her earlier, before she left for work,” says Heather’s father, Dan Lerch.
“I told her to have a great day, that I loved her, and I never saw her again.”
This story is a powerful reminder that no text or call is worth the risk of losing
your life or causing someone else’s death. As Wendy Lerch said, “Heather had so much
more of this life to live, but it was all taken away by a conversation that could
The car that Heather was driving is sent to various high schools in the state of
Washington so students can see up close the damage that texting and driving can do.
Heather’s car is a sad reminder of what can happen in an instant when a driver is
distracted behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.
Heather’s mother says that she sees drivers using their cell phones to text and drive
all the time. “It’s almost epidemic,” she says.
Our hearts go out to Heather’s parents, family and friends. Her death was tragic,
it did not need to happen, and it should not have happened.
No conversation on a cell phone is worth your life.