Zachary's car after crash on a trailer

Weld County, Colorado,
08:00 AM

One Parent’s Survival Guide to Life after Loss

Stay safe – Don’t drink and drive

It’s 2:30 a.m., and the doorbell rings. Lori Stutts answers the door, knowing deep down it can’t be good news.

The deputy coroner is at the door. She tells Lori the worst news imaginable. Her son, Zach Maurer, 22, had died.

She tells her it was a single vehicle crash that happened late the night before. Airlifted to the local hospital, they tried everything, but they couldn’t save Zach.

September 20, 2005, is a day Lori will never forget.

Facts: Zach’s blood alcohol level was .165, close to three times over the legal limit in Colorado, which is .06. He was not wearing his seat belt. He was traveling between 75-85 MPH, entering a curve with a speed limit of 30 MPH.

Zachary smiling, holding flowers, next to his Dodge Neon

“When something bad happens you have choices—let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you; be a victim or a victor,” she shares.

Lori chose the latter—be a victor and let the tragic loss of her only child strengthen her.

“After Zach's death, it would have been easy to just lay down and give up. But soon after the crash, I knew I had to live and share the story with the goal of telling others to think about the choices they make before getting behind the wheel," Lori explained.

She reached out to a local safety coalition, Drive Smart Weld County, which is supported by State Farm, to get involved in their teen driver safety program. Since 2006, Lori has served as one of the program’s most impactful volunteer speakers.

Lori, Zach's mother, speaking at local safety coalition, Drive Smart Weld County

She chose to share her experience to teach others. She speaks to local teenagers about their choices before getting behind the wheel.

Lori uses her platform to tell teen audiences, “You are special and loved, you matter to this world; AND your choices affect everyone around you.”

Lori donated Zach’s car to the safety coalition. It was mounted onto a trailer with a storyboard. Over the years, she has traveled to schools throughout Weld County (3,900 square miles). At times, towing his car, to tell the story to students, teachers and parents.

Zach's totaled carLori’s survival strength is evident in the delivery of her message. Students sit silently, listening and viewing pictures of Zach before the crash, news clips and the car after the crash.

Afterward, as students file out of the room, many stop to give her comforting hugs.  Lori will never know how many lives she has saved or changed because of her son’s story. However, if just one teen’s mind was changed, she knows the years of sharing her message of love, strength and choices, was worth it.

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