Governor's Traffic Safety Committee


Joe Morrissey
Casey McNulty

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Speakers Use Personal Experiences to Teach New Yorkers About Consequences of Dangerous Behavior on the Roads

The New York State Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) today highlighted the important work of traffic safety advocates, who share personal experiences at schools throughout the state, putting a human face on traffic safety issues that affect New Yorkers. Providing School Resource Officers, educators, and administrators with inspirational speakers who have had to recover from traffic safety-related tragedies is just one way GTSC promotes safe driving to young motorists and passengers.

"Every year, GTSC's traffic safety advocates reach thousands of youth across New York with their stories of tragedy and inspiration," said DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner and Acting GTSC Chair Terri Egan. "Traffic safety is an issue that affects people of all ages. Getting the personal message out to youth that tragedies can happen to them is a powerful tool in our traffic safety portfolio that inspires audiences and saves lives."

Speakers like Jacy Good, Marianne Angelillo, and Karen Torres have turned adversity into educational opportunities. They speak at school events to convey the message that traffic safety tragedies affect families across New York State every day. GTSC provides a link on its Younger Driver Tool-Kit website for school officials to request such speakers to participate at events statewide throughout the year.

Jacy Good speaks to the destructive effects of distracted driving. In 2008, Jacy and her parents were returning home from her college graduation in Pennsylvania when a young man talking on a cell phone ran a red light, causing a tractor trailer to hit their car head-on. Jacy's parents were killed instantly and, after initially being given only a ten-percent chance of survival, Jacy spent four months in the hospital recovering from internal injuries, multiple fractures, and a traumatic brain injury.

Since her recovery, Jacy has been a tireless advocate for preventing distracted driving, testifying at Congressional hearings, lobbying at the United Nations, and sharing her message with thousands of people. In 2012, she became a GTSC victims' advocate and has spoken at school districts throughout the state, urging students to avoid distractions behind the wheel.

"It's definitely not where I expected to be, but I think this happened to me so that I can tell this story and hopefully make people realize the power that they hold," Jacy said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. "There is nothing that can possibly be that important that you have to take everyone around you and put their lives at risk."

Marianne Angelillo's journey began on Father's Day 2004, when her 17-year-old son, Matthew, was killed as a passenger in a high-speed car crash. Matthew, a popular honor student and athlete, planned to attend the United States Air Force Academy after graduation, and the academy awarded him an honorary membership in the Class of 2009 in recognition of his great potential. His loss was a devastating blow to the Skaneateles community.

Angelillo has spoken at school presentations and for traffic safety groups since 2004, hoping that sharing her family's story will spare other families from similar tragedy. Several New York agencies have recognized her efforts. Angelillo also authored a book about her family's experiences titled "Sharing My Stones."

"The first time I was approached to speak about Matt's death, I decided that I would share my pain if it could help save another family from experiencing what we had," Angelillo said. "I discovered that in reaching out to teens and their parents, I was able to connect with Matt and use his life to educate others."

Both Good and Angelillo actively participate in Victims Impact Panels.

On March 17, 2006, Karen Torres received the tragic news that her father, Patrick Mapleson, was struck and killed on Sunrise Highway by a distracted driver while working as a member of a New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) road crew. Torres has shared her story at high schools, driver's education classes, peer leadership programs, church groups, rotary clubs and corporate organizations.

In July 2013, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo asked Torres to speak alongside him at a press conference aimed at deterring texting while driving.

"By turning personal tragedy into positive, life-saving action, you have provided lasting inspiration and an indelible example of perseverance to all New Yorkers," Governor Cuomo told her. Torres has also participated in the DOT's statewide roadway safety campaign.

The GTSC speaker program has garnered praise from both educators and students who have attended presentations. A SUNY Oswego professor said Angelillo's recent presentation at the college had a profound impact on students. One Fayetteville Manlius student was so impressed with a presentation Angelillo made at his school that he emailed her to personally thank her for speaking at his school.

"I can honestly say that the talk you gave us was one of the most touching, difficult to hear, yet beautiful things that I have ever experienced," he wrote.

To request a speaker for a school presentation, contact the GTSC.