ATLANTA — As students across Georgia prepare to head out of town for spring break, multiple efforts are underway to warn them about the dangers of distracted and impaired driving.
Hundreds of students from Carroll County gathered on Thursday for Georgia’s first Safe Driving Summit Several of these summits will take place across the state this year in an effort to end distracted and impaired driving.
Mike Lutzenkirchen is a major part of that effort. In 2014, he lost his 23-year-old son, Philip, in a single car crash. Philip attended Lassiter High School in Cobb County before becoming a star on the Auburn football team. He was a passenger in the vehicle that crashed, killing him and the driver. Speed and alcohol were major factors.
“I want kids to hear this is real,” Lutzenkirchen said. “I want them to realize how quickly this can happen.”
The summit allowed students to experience a real trauma room and see how easy it is to travel in a truck driver’s blind spot. But the biggest impact was hearing from Lutzenkirchen, who created the Lutzie 43 Foundation as a means of telling others about the grief that comes from drunk and distracted driving.
The Georgia Department of Transportation has formed a partnership with Lutzenkirchen to promote awareness.
“Philip typically made great decisions,” Lutzenkirchen added. “That one weekend of making bad decisions took his life.”
Among the students taking part was 16-year-old Mavis Acosta who has yet to get her driver’s license. She says she fears getting behind the wheel after seeing so much bad behavior on Georgia roads.
“People want to race you sometimes,” Acosta said. “They want to speed.”
Over the past three years, traffic fatalities in Georgia have been on the rise, from a total of 1,299 death in 2019 to 1,838 traffic fatalities last year.
The numbers are preliminary, but so far this year, there have been fewer road deaths when compared to the same time period last year.
Now, spring breakers are hitting the road.
“It takes one bad weekend, one bad month for that number to quickly turn on a dime,” GDOT’s Natalie Dale explained.
Meanwhile, Lutzenkirchen is leaning on his faith and the memory of his son to prepare young drivers for their time behind the wheel.
“Philip is a part of this,” said Lutzenkirchen. “There’s an angel watching over this, and it will have an impact.”