In a press conference April 9 at Bluffton Police Department, Chief Chris Chapmond announced a partnership between the Town of Bluffton and the Lutzie 43 Foundation, creators of the 43 Key Seconds distracted driving campaign.
Chapmond said he and his officers are tired of finding tragic results when responding to crashes caused by distracted driving. "We have to put a stop to this," he said.
The Foundation is named for Philip Lutzenkirchen, a 23-year-old Auburn football standout who lost his life in 2014 in a car crash. Both Philip and the driver had been drinking, and Philip was not wearing a seatbelt.
Philip's father, Mike Lutzenkirchen, started the Foundation and the campaign in memory of his son, whose jersey was No. 43.
Lutzenkirchen was the keynote speaker at the press conference. Mayor Lisa Sulka, who said her own daughter had lost four friends in distracted driving accidents, introduced him. "If we can save one child, one student with this campaign," she said, "it's worth it."
"This is the first time we have partnered with a municipality," Lutzenkirchen said. He said based on the reception he and his message received from town officials, he was glad this community was the first.
With tears in his eyes and voice cracking, Lutzenkirchen said Philip was his only son, and though he has three beautiful daughters, "my son was my best friend." After his death, Lutzenkirchen said, he was compelled to "do something." He created the foundation to inspire other young people to make better decisions as drivers.
The 43 Key Seconds plan is to pause for 43 seconds and be aware of four "rules" after getting behind the wheel of a car: Clear head, = clear hands, clear eyes, and click it, meaning your seatbelt and those of passengers. It takes about 43 Seconds, Lutzenkirchen said.
As a reminder, the foundation provides its 43 Key Seconds lanyard and "43" metal key to hang from a car's rearview mirror.
Lutzenkirchen visited Bluffton and May River high schools and made a public presentation at USCB during his visit. He said 3,700 keys had been distributed in the community.
Sulka said she hopes "all of us" will pledge to follow the plan and encourage our friends and children to do the same. "We set the tone for our children," she said. Holding up her cell phone, she said, "We have to put this down when we're in the car."
Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner said "Distracted driving is the leading cause of highway deaths in our county." He echoed Chief Chapmond's concerns about the growing number of traffic fatalities of young people over the past several years. "It's got to stop."
For more information, visit Lutzie43.org.