August 17, 2010 Leigh Anne Ward was driving home along River Thames Road in Jackson. A pickup truck hit her vehicle, and she died in the accident. The 36-year-old was a teacher at Madison Ridgeland Academy.
Ethan Van Sice was behind the wheel of the pickup. Right now, he's serving a six year sentence for reckless driving.
Now, Ward's family is involved in an effort to stop distracted driving. They've allowed the Central Mississippi Trauma Region to use Leigh Anne's picture and story on billboards promoting safe driving.
"Look at those billboards, and really think about the fact that but for the grace of God, they could be Leigh Anne," says Bobbie Ward, Leigh Anne's mother.
The billboards popping up around the Jackson metro say "Stop the Texts, Stop the Wrecks." And while Ward's family says they don't know for sure the driver who killed their daughter was texting, they don't want any other family to experience what they've gone through.
"The guy driving the car was going so fast that when he hit Leigh Anne's car, it knocked her up into the tree," says Bobbie. "We got to the emergency room, and really and truly, she was gone already."
C Spire Wireless is also involved in the push for safe driving. They're running a PSA on local radio telling you to stop the distracted driving.
"Virtually every study that's out there has shown that that creates a very dangerous situation," says Dave Miller with C Spire. "Not only for you and for passengers, but for other drivers on the road."
For the past seven years, C Spire has teamed up with the Mississippi Highway Patrol to teach young drivers the dangers of distracted driving. So far, they've educated 40,000 people in 100 workshops.
In 2011, 3,000 people were killed and 400,000 were injured by distracted drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Bobbie Ward says those numbers should be much lower, and she hopes people learn from what happened to her family.
"Life has never been the same," she says.
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