Teens in a car….an accident…the rush to a hospital…the death of a son.
Cynthia Williams’ experience that began four years ago and continues today following the car crash that took the life of her oldest son Christopher, 17, has changed the course of her life.
She’s begun a campaign that she hopes will open the eyes of youth about distracted driving as well as provide much-needed support for families who face the painful and uncertain reality of dealing with the after-effects of an accident due to distracted driving.
In 2006, Christopher, 17, was a passenger in a vehicle with three other young adults. According to his mother, he wasn’t wearing his seat belt when the vehicle flipped nine times. He suffered extensive head trauma, so extensive that his mother agreed to have him disconnected from life support days later.
Williams said she was told three different versions of the accident by the other passengers, however, she said she believes distracted driving was a factor.
Now, Williams is on a campaign to drive home a message about safety and ownership for one’s action to youth, and remind parents that they can’t emphasize driving rules too much. Three years ago, she founded Love From Afar, Inc.-The Christopher Williams Foundation as a formal way of reaching out to others.
One individual supporting her effort is businessman Darryl Ford, who donated a Dodge Magnum to Williams’ foundation to help her take her message, “Don’t Text and Drive,” to the streets. The vehicle, emblazoned with slogan, was unveiled in a ceremony Nov. 13 at Ford’s dealership, Stone Mountain Chrysler Jeep Dodge. Actor Quinton Aaron, who starred in the movie The Blind Side, is spokesperson for the organization and made a guest appearance.
Williams speaks to students across Georgia about constructive decisions versus destructive decisions, and she plans to take her campaign nationwide. She brings with her photos of the wrecked car her son was riding in as well pictures of him in a casket. She said although she told her son about wearing a seat belt and being safe when in a car, it wasn’t something she emphasized each and every time he left the house.
Now that her 19-year-old daughter is driving, Williams said she makes it a point to go over the rules her daughter should be following before she gets behind the wheel: no talking on the phone, no texting, always wearing the seatbelt, not allowing distractions of any kind (music, eating, interaction with passengers). And she said she makes her repeat the rules before she leaves.
“We have it all spelled out,” said Williams.
Earlier this year, Williams created Parents Against Distracting Driving. “Our goal is to go to the hospital and meet the parents of crash victims and their families. The biggest reason I do this is because I try to relate situations that I’ve experienced in my own life to be a positive outcome for others so they won’t be as harsh as mine. And, they can learn from what I’ve been through and they won’t have to experience it themselves,” said Williams.
Whether it is getting a family member some water, keeping them company in a waiting room, getting them some food or fulfilling any other request, Williams said being there for them is therapeutic for her.
Williams, who moved to Stone Mountain from Chicago in 2005, said that at the time of her son’s accident she was the mother of four children with no relatives in the area. She said it was extremely tough navigating through such a tragedy with so little support.
“I watch the news and surf the internet to find crash victims in our area, and I meet the families at the hospitals and offer the families support that I lacked when I experienced my tragedy,” she said. “I realized there was not a state in the country that had a program to reach out to parents of crash victims while they’re in the hospital trying to deal with the sudden changes. What I realized is that the moment you get the phone call that your child has been in a crash, your life is going to change.”