The twisted metal and shattered glass of Heather Lerch’s black 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt served as a grim example Friday to raise awareness of a new cell phone law that will take effect June 10.
State Patrol Chief John Batiste, Licensing Director Liz Luce and state Sen. Tracey Eide praised the law at the news conference outside State Patrol and DOL offices in Parkland. The wreckage of Lerch’s car sat nearby on a trailer.
Lerch, 19, died instantly in a one-car crash Feb. 23 south of Olympia. It was a stretch of road she had traveled hundreds of times. Yet as she drove home from work that night, she was also sending text messages.
“Hey you and I need to hang sometime ;-)” she wrote. “Alright cool :-)”
That was her last text message, sent at 10:27 p.m. The first caller to report her crash dialed 911 at 10:30 p.m.
Her parents Dan and Wendy Lerch said they hope to save a life by speaking out. They said adults need to set an example for their children by not use cell phones or text while driving.
“I’ll never see my daughter again,” said Dan Lerch, as he wiped a tear from his eye and Wendy patted him on the back. “I think that’s the hardest part.”
The new law makes it a primary offense for drivers to send text messages or to talk on a cell phone without a hands-free device. The fine is $124. Drivers with instructional permits or intermediate licenses may not use a cell phone at all, even with a hands-free device.
Eide, a Federal Way Democrat who sponsored the bill and has fought for the ban for a decade, said it was heart-wrenching to look at Lerch’s car.
“It makes people realize it could be my son, it could be my daughter,” she said.
Eide said she showed a public-service video about the crash to her 23-year-old son.
“It really made an impact on him,” she said. “They think they’re invincible and immortal, and unfortunately they’re not.”
Here’s the 30-second public service video: