Distracted driving is becoming a huge problem, with people looking at their cell phones to answer a text or make calls and taking their focus off the road. One such incident, involving a Texas teen, ended in tragedy, as she was killed in a car crash after unbuckling her seat belt to take a selfie. The girl’s parents, David and Wendy Mills, were understandably devastated by the loss, but are using their daughter’s car accident as a wake up call in hopes of saving other lives.
The Mills have joined the Texas Department of Transportation’s “Click It or Ticket” campaign to share their daughter’s story as a cautionary tale about the importance of being buckled up in a car.
A display that includes nearly 1,000 “ghost shoes” — white footwear in every style, shape and size — has been set up to show the significant loss. David Mills told Fox 26: “I can almost see all the people standing here behind me,” explaining, “There’s 929 pairs of shoes behind us, and each one of those shoes belonged to somebody who lost their life in 2017 from not wearing a seat belt.”
There’s one bright pink pair of shoes among all of the white footwear — the shoes belonged to the Mills’ 16-year-old daughter, Kailee Mills. Kailee was driving with three friends to a Halloween party when she unbuckled her seat belt to take a selfie. Just seconds later, they were involved in a car accident and she was killed. It happened just 500 yards from her home.
Her father explained: “The car went off the road. She was ejected and she died instantly. All the other kids in the car, they had their seat belts on and they all survived with very little injury.”
The Texas Department of Transportation stresses that buckling up can save lives in a car crash, reducing the risk of death in a crash by 45% in a car/SUV and 60% in a pickup truck.
Wendy Mills explained the tremendous loss in their lives, telling Fox: “She had this laugh that was very unique. Her laugh alone made you smile and she loved to make people smile. My daughter was just outgoing, a ray of sunshine.”
Bailee’s mother also told KRPC that “it’s just devastating to have to relive this every day and so, for all the teens… don’t let your guard down, always buckle up. Buckle up before you leave and don’t unbuckle until you get home.”
Among the many remarks left on social media about the tragedy, one commenter made this connection:
“If she had no cell phone, she never would have taken her seat belt off. Cell phones are the cause of many deaths.”
The tragedy also sparked this caution from one commenter: “This is sad. Another way to stay safe while driving is to pay attention. Put phones down, don’t talk, text or take photos while driving.”
One person pointed to using common sense and following laws while in a car, noting: “No selfie is worth dying over, prayers to the family. This is an unnecessary death as it could been prevented with simple common sense and following the laws of using a car. So sad that it’s becoming the norm for young people.”