Distracted driving kills

Pine River students impacted through story of teen’s death

LEROY — A collective gasp was heard throughout the Pine River High School gymnasium as a photo of a mangled vehicle flashed on a screen. Seventeen-year-old Kelsey Raffaele was killed in the vehicle while talking on her cell phone. Bonnie Raffale, Kelsey’s mother, visited the school on Oct. 22 to tell students her story of the tragic consequences that can come from distracted driving. On Jan. 24, 2010 Kelsey was driving near her high school, in Sault St. Marie where she was a senior. Engaged in a conversation on her cell phone, she veered into the left lane to pass the car in front of her, and collided with an oncoming car at 35 miles per hour. The crash killer her instantly. “She misjudged the distance that she had to pass the car,” Raffaele said. “Kelsey didn’t get to graduate from high school, because she was using a cell phone and driving.” Kelsey had her drivers’ license for just three months at the time of the accident. After Kelsey’s death, Bonnie began sharing the painful story and advocating for legislation against distracted driving. Kelsey’s Law currently is awaiting approval in the House of Representatives. This law would prevent any driver with a Level 1 or Level 2 license from using a cell phone while they drive. Instead of “curling up into a ball after Kelsey’s death,” Raffaele shares her story in hopes of preventing other young drivers from making the same mistakes. “When you’re behind the wheel of the car and you go to answer that call or send that text, I ask you to think of my daughter,” Raffaele said. After the presentation, Rafaele offered students the opportunity to sign a banner to take the Kids Driving Responsibly challenge, named to share the initials of Kelsey Dawn Raffaele. She takes banners to each place she speaks, offering the same opportunity to thousands of students. Dave Hojnacki, parent of a student at Crossroads Charter Academy, was a key factor in bringing Raffaele’s presentation to Pine River High School. After being impacted by the story himself, Hojnacki helps Raffaele make contact with schools and organizations around the state, in hopes of spreading the message to as many teens and adults as possible. The program at Pine River High School was hosted by the Pine River Principal’s Council, a group of students committed to positively affecting their school. Sophomore member Connor Smith said the council expected Raffaele’s tragic story to be a wake-up call to students who may not have considered the consequences of using their phone and driving. “What teen doesn’t benefit from a presentation on not texting and driving?” Smith said. “Everyone knows everyone and our school is so small. To lose someone would be tragic for us.” Senior Eugene Sturdavant said Raffaele’s presentation would cause him to think differently about the choices he makes. “I know it impacted not only me, but everyone in the audience,” Sturdavant said. “I’ll admit, I have (texted while driving), but every time I go to do that now, I’m going to be thinking about this. I’m definitely going to think twice.” For more information about Raffaele’s story or Kelsey’s Law, or to schedule a presentation, visit