From Student To Spokesperson
Libby’s life changed forever when her best friend lost her life in a car crash
It’s a heartbreaking scenario for anyone to imagine. It was October 9, 2012, and seventeen year-old Jaime was driving herself and her sister, 15 year-old Francesca, to a color guard performance. Suddenly, Jaime lost control of her car on the wet road and collided head-on with a minivan. Both sisters were killed.
Sadly, teen driver fatalities are an epidemic. In 2015, 1,886 young drivers, 15 – 20 years old, died in motor vehicle crashes. This is a 9% increase from 2014. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens.
“It was extremely upsetting and shocking,” says Libby Hoefler, Jaime’s best friend. “When you’re a teenager, there’s so much excitement around getting your driver’s license that we don’t take time to remember we’re not invincible.”
Libby quickly turned her grief into action. She started raising awareness about teen driver safety at her high school, Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science (MATES) in Manahawkin, NJ, where Jaime was also a student.
Libby helped lead MATES’ student-led Focus on the Drive Club, emphasizing the importance of passenger safety. The program encourages teens to be responsible passengers by not distracting the driver, offering to send text messages on the driver’s behalf, and voicing their opinions.
"A lot of teenagers have difficulty speaking up when they see their friends acting recklessly behind the wheel,” explains Libby. “They don’t want to seem lame, so we help them communicate their feelings. Talking to a friend about how his or her careless driving makes you feel unsafe is less accusatory than making judgmental statements. Our programs help generate those important conversations.”
Additionally, Libby founded the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey’s Youth Advisory Board for their U Got Brains? Champion Schools program. The program, supported by State Farm, enables high school students throughout the state to create safe driving campaigns.
Now a pre-med student at Temple University in Philadelphia, Libby is still a safe driving advocate. In 2016, she was designated as one of 10 Road Safety Ambassadors in the country through a program coordinated by State Farm and Youth Service America.
As an Ambassador, Libby recently went back to MATES with State Farm agent Lisa Patchell. They hosted safe driving presentations during the Drivers Education classes and then played a trivia game with all of the students during lunch.
“It’s inspiring to see Libby turn a tragedy into positive energy by educating and championing teen driver safety,” says Lisa. “The students were engaged and some were surprised to learn of certain statistics. I’m grateful to be have been part of the program and am a strong believer in educating new drivers.
“Limiting teen driving fatalities is absolutely crucial,” adds Libby. “I want to do all I can in order to educate and help others.”