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Father of teen killed in texting-and-driving crash shares message about safety

A father who lost a teenage daughter in a crash is bringing home a powerful message to local students. (WKRC)

KINGS MILLS, Ohio (WKRC) - A father who lost a teenage daughter in a crash is bringing home a powerful message to local students.

The lesson he taught could mean the difference between life and death. Numbers show Warren County has the second-highest teen fatality rate in Ohio.

And Brock Dietrich's message comes exactly four years after his daughter was killed.

Students at Kings High School watched in silence as the story of Sydnee Williams played on a video screen. Sydnee was 17 when she was killed in a car crash near Columbus. Sydnee was driving and texting and not wearing a seat belt.

Following his daughter's death, Dietrich went on a mission to educate teens about the dangers of distracted driving and not wearing a seat belt. Friday's message connected with these young drivers.

“I thought that I could take away a very positive message about being safe while I’m driving and not having all of those distractions--keeping my radio low, keeping my phone away and only paying attention to what’s important while I’m driving,” said student Anna-Claire Baker.

Of all the teen driving crashes over the past three years in Warren County, four were fatalities. All involved vehicles going off the road and hitting a tree.

Earlier this year, a 17-year-old boy was killed in a Clearcreek Township crash. Troopers say a 15-year-old boy was driving.

As part of the Teen Driver Safety Week program, students drove a simulator which had them driving while texting. They saw that texting and driving don't mix.

“It was interesting, kind of just getting the idea of how distracted you are when you’re on your phone. I’m never on my phone, but wow—you’re swerving all over the place, and it shows how dangerous it is,” said student Christian Pierce.

“You got to have a plan for what distract you in the car, and how are you going to handle those things? You can’t wait until you’re in the situation where your phone rings to make a choice not to let it distract you. You have to have a plan for what you’re going to do with it, as well as all the other distractions in the car,” said Dietrich.

The Ohio Department of Transportation says while teen drivers account for 5 percent of all Ohioans behind the wheel, they are involved in 15 percent of all crashes. And teen crashes are up 12 percent since 2014.

So far in 2017, 72 teens have been killed in Ohio crashes. Sixty percent were not wearing seat belts.

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