Just the day after Thanksgiving in 2007, Kimberly Schlau lost her two oldest daughters in a car accident involving distracted driving - police trooper lost control of his car and crossed a median, slamming into the car Jessica and Kelli Schlau were in.
In the following days and months, it would come to light that the trooper had not only been driving over 120 mph at the time of the accident, but that he’d also allegedly been on the phone with his girlfriend while trying to navigate his car’s computer system to get directions to a nearby crash scene. The trooper pleaded guilty to reckless homicide and aggravated reckless driving as part of a plea bargain.
Outreach: Distracted Driving
Schlau had participated in a number of programs honoring Jessica and Kelli, but in 2010 she began sharing her story with the St. Louis County Police Department’s new recruits. It provided her an opportunity to share her experience with future police officers who might one day find themselves in the same position as the trooper who had taken her daughters’ lives - driving at high speeds as they did their jobs.
“I talked to them about day-to-day things — what it’s like to go up into [the girls’] rooms and have them not be there … All of the things we went through,” Schlau said. “We were hoping that me talking to them before they got into those police cars, and started forming bad habits and making bad choices, would make a difference.”
Major Health Concern
According to the Centers for Disease Control, at least nine people are killed every day the U.S. in crashes that involve a distracted driver. Talks such as the one Schlau has been given, have become valuable tools to get the word out about the dangers of distracted driving. While the talks can be draining for Schlau, she’s determined to push on because it seems every time she feels she can’t go on, someone approaches her afterwards to say, ‘That made such an impact on me. I’m going to do better.’"
“We’ve made it our mission to keep this from happening to someone else,” Schlau said. “We tell our story, show pictures … Really, what parent doesn’t love to talk about their children? It’s just unfortunate it has to be like that.”