MATTHEWS – It’s been more than five years since Tammy Garlock lost her 17-year-old son Brian in a car crash.
Brian, a new driver of just three weeks and student at Butler High School, is believed to have looked away from the road to make a phone call on June 12, 2008, as he was about to cross a Pineville intersection. He failed to look left, and his car was struck on the driver’s side door by a pick-up, spinning his car into a second pick-up and hitting almost the exact same spot. Brian died later that day.
That one attempted phone call changed the Garlocks’ lives forever – and since 2009, Tammy Garlock has been sharing Brian’s story in hopes of preventing at least one person from making the same simple mistake.
“During the course of the first year, we talked about it and then we didn’t talk about it. It was hard to take in that your child had made a horrible mistake,” Garlock said.
That’s why Garlock is working with Butler High School’s DREAM Team, StateFarm and StreetSafe, an organization also dedicated to teen driver safety. Together, the organizations are partnering for National Teen Driver Safety Week from Oct. 18 to 26 to bring attention to driver safety. The week will feature a StreetSafe Life Saving Driving Experience on Saturday, Oct. 19, which will kick-off another life-saving initiative by StateFarm called Celebrate My Drive.
The StreetSafe event, in Brian’s memory, provides a hands-on opportunity for teens to experience the consequences of distractions, losing control, impaired driving, safe stopping distance and seatbelt use in a safe and controlled environment. Students throughout the area are invited to attend, but must pre-register at www.streetsafeus.com. Parents are required to attend the first hour of the session with their student.
It’s the first year for the StreetSafe event at Butler, which runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., but Garlock said she’s excited to see a fresh approach to driving safety.
“It’s a hands-on approach to the same issues, and it just gives some experience to help if they are ever put in that situation,” she said.
The Butler DREAM TEAM is asking for community members to get involved during National Teen Driving Safety week with Celebrate My Drive. The program asks drivers to pledge to not text and drive.
During the week of Oct. 18 to 26, the school is asking community members to go to www.celebratemydrive.com and make a safe driving commitment on behalf of Butler High School once a day to help Butler win a $100,000 grant and concert from Grammy award-winner Kelly Clarkson.
Anyone age 14 and older can make a pledge once per day. To make a pledge, participants should log onto the website and click “join” at the top left corner of the page. Choose “North Carolina,” choose the affiliation, fill in “Matthews” or “28105” and then click “David W. Butler High School.”
Garlock is happy to see so many groups come together for a greater cause, she said. Some local StateFarm agents, including Darren Morton, have helped her with her own nonprofit, in which she tells Brian’s story and distributes bracelets with the words “Remember Brian 06-12-08.” It’s a simple, but very real, reminder that one wrong choice can change a life forever. Garlock and her family initially purchased and passed out 2,500 of the bracelets on their own in 2009. With the help of StateFarm, more than 90,000 of Brian’s bracelets have been distributed throughout the area and state.
“We never imagined doing anything like this. StateFarm has been a tremendous supporter of what I’m trying to do – to encourage not just teenagers, but everyone, to put their cellphones away when they drive,” Garlock said.
She plans to pass out about 2,500 more bracelets throughout National Teen Driving Safety Week at Butler, in addition to telling Brian’s story during several assemblies at the school.
“I’m not going to convince every single person I talk to that using their phone is a danger. I know I can’t save everyone, but if I can save just one person from making the same mistake Brian did, then it’s all worth it.”
Find more information about the initiatives at www.streetsafeus.com and www.celebratemydrive.com. The school is located at 1810 Matthews-Mint Hill Road.