Father shares story of daughter's fatal distracted driving crash with high school students
MASON, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) - Brock Dietrich hopes no other family must go through the tragedy his has. So, he shares the story of his daughter's death with high school kids whenever he gets the chance.
"It's extremely difficult sharing Sydnee's story and reliving the worst day of my life," he said. "But what's really important is thinking about how we can make a difference in other kids' lives and save some other family from going through the tragedy we went through."
Dietrich's daughter, 17-year-old Sydnee Williams, was driving Oct. 18, 2013, when she made the decision to pick up her phone and text while driving. Sydnee was not wearing a seat belt, and was ejected from the car after crashing. She died two days later because of her injuries.
Dietrich said he always has students come up and talk to him about Sydnee's story.
"Or talk about some of their friends they ride with and how it scares them, some of the [driver's] behaviors and how they are going to potentially change what they're doing," he said. "Either not riding with a dangerous driver or speaking up in the car."
Besides Dietrich speaking, the Ohio Department of Transportation offered the Kings Mills High School kids the chance to simulate driving while distracted and talk about the importance of wearing a seat belt.
ODOT said the school was chosen because of the high rate of teen crashes in Warren County, as it has the second highest teen crash rate per capita in the state.
The event is part of a statewide effort that included social media messages and more than 130 digital highway message signs reminding teens about the dangers of distracted driving and not buckling up.
"Seat belts save lives and cell phones take them," Michelle May with the Highway Safety Program of ODOT said. "Too often, whether you're 16 or 36, you underestimate the danger of looking at a text or cell phone while you're driving. It only takes that split second and you can never take it back."
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading killer of teens in the United States. Crashes involving teens have increased 12 percent since 2014. Teens are twice as likely as adults drivers to be involved in a fatal crash.
Dietrich’s daughter may be gone, but he hopes he can carry on Sydnee's spirit.
"She'd be extremely proud. That was a core of who Sydnee was. She really wanted to help people and so this is how we can help her, help other people through [Sydnee's] death," said Dietrich.
The father said his message is not just for students, he hopes parents hear it as well.
"The key for parents is role-modeling good behavior. That's a lesson that I learned and part of the reason I believe Sydnee was in the situation, was I didn't always role model those good behaviors to Sydnee. So, as a parent, that's the lesson I learned and I hope to communicate that to other parents that it is really important, your kids learn from what you're doing and no matter how much you tell them not to do something, if they see you doing it, they're going to repeat that same behavior," said Dietrich.