A Few Fatal Seconds

Teenagers driving car

They say time heals all wounds, but for me, it’s not so easy. You see, on February 22, 2018, my only child was killed just 26 days before her 18th birthday, and three months before she would have graduated from Thompson High School. My sweet daughter Camryn “Cici” Callaway was distracted by her cell phone while driving home from work. In the course of only a few short seconds, she went from wishing a friend happy birthday to slamming her brakes as she slid underneath an 18-wheeler on I-65. Yes, she made a mistake, like many of us do every day.

Admittedly, I used to be one of those who would glance down to check my phone. At red lights, stop signs, or even just when the flow of traffic felt easy enough to shoot off a quick text. But all that ended for me almost two years ago. As parents, we are not being the role models our children need to see if we are riding down the road with our phones in our hands while we are driving. You can tell them to not be distracted by their phones while they drive, but what will they follow, your words or your actions? We all know just how dangerous drunk and drugged driving is, and we’ve agreed as a society that Driving Under Intoxication (DUI) is an offense that deserves to be strictly policed and punished. It is time to add Distracted Driving to that list. It is the drunk driving issue of our time.

Distracted Driving

Distracted Driving is just as deadly and irresponsible as driving drunk. We must all realize that our driving habits matter! A few decades ago, hundreds of thousands of mothers across the country rallied to bring awareness to the dangers of Drunk Driving. I am now one of the many parents, grandparents, friends, and classmates of the far too many victims of Distracted Driving. Now we are the ones trying to shine a light of awareness to the life and death consequences of Distracted Driving. In 2016, the most recent year for which there are National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics, distracted driving crashes caused 3,450 fatalities and nearly 400,000 injuries.

Only Five Seconds

As I tragically learned, teens with their long list of social media messaging apps are particularly at risk. They are a shocking four times more likely than older drivers to get into accidents caused by distracted driving… Crashes caused by cell phones or electronic devices are 100% PREVENTABLE. The average text takes only five seconds to read. Only five seconds of looking down to read the messages that have become such an enormous part of our lives. But at 55mph, well below the speed limit of the interstate, you will cover the length of an entire football field with your eyes off the road. Between you and the end of that football field length of highway stands an entire life you might end too soon. The ripple effects of one distraction have caused a lifetime of pain and grief, for me, my family, and my daughter’s friends. Cici was a wonderful daughter who made a very tragic mistake. Nothing will bring her back to me, but if I can save other parents the pain of burying their own children, I owe it to her to continue reaching out to everyone and bringing awareness to distracted driving, especially by a cell phone.


Michelle Lunsford and FOCUS collaborate to provide Distracted Driving prevention education to students across the state. Michelle presented her powerful message of losing her daughter at the 2019 FOCUS Rallies and will be a presenter at the 2020 South Alabama FOCUS Rally to be held at Lurleen B.Wallace Community College in Andalusia, AL.

Michelle Lunsford is a National Safety Council advocate working for the“Road to Zero” mission to eliminate roadway deaths over the next 30 years. After the loss of her only child, Camryn “Cici” Callaway due to distracted driving by her cell phone, she has been working with Alabama legislators to push for the “Hands-Free Alabama” bill that will be re-introduced at the capital in March 2020. She is a frequent speaker at schools, churches, teen driver summits and trauma prevention programs.

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