The following piece was written by Tammy Garlock, a woman who suffered the loss of her son, Brian, in 2008 due to distracted driving. Tammy has made it her mission to travel around the country and share Brian’s story, to hopefully urge people to stop this awful problem.
I’ve met Tammy, and I’ve heard her story in person. It’s unbelievable what her family had to go through… but what’s more amazing, is that she’s using her family’s tragedy to try to help others. I truly cannot imagine.
Grab your tissues, folks… this is a good one.
And thank you, Tammy, for all that you do.
Thursday, June 12, 2008 began like
any other ordinary day but unfortunately didn’t end that way. Sometimes one
small decision, a mindless choice, really, can alter your life forever. You see,
dying changes everything.
My husband, John, and I met for
lunch that day, and as we waited his phone rang and he stepped outside to take
the call (I assumed it was because of bad reception, but it was actually
because John couldn’t understand the caller).
It was a friend of our son, Brian,
trying to tell us our 17-year old son had been in a car crash, that he was
unconscious and bleeding somewhere in Pineville. Exactly three weeks earlier, Brian
had gotten his full driver’s license, and exactly one week earlier, almost to
the minute, we had finally given him his car, a light blue 2000 Honda Civic.
From the moment John received that
telephone call at 11:51 a.m., our life became a waking nightmare. Brian gained
his freedom and control with those car keys, and now he was in serious trouble
– the greatest fear of every parent was now our reality: our child was injured
We were overly aggressive and
reckless driving there, desperate to reach him and afraid of what we would find
when we did. Brian was taken by ambulance to the closest hospital, and then
flown by helicopter to Carolinas Medical Center’s main trauma center.
In less than two hours, it was all
over. The words of the surgeon and the look on his face are burned into my
heart and soul: “I’m very sorry; your son didn’t make it. He died.”
Brian never regained consciousness
from the moment of impact. There were no goodbyes, and life as we knew it was
over. Our entire family died that day, and we are no longer the people we were.
It took many months of grieving before
we were able to acknowledge a very simple truth: our beloved son and brother,
Brian, lost his life due to a series of seemingly inconsequential decisions
that many of us take for granted daily.
This horrific chain of events began
with a distraction, one that is quite common in our community and all across
North Carolina. Brian looked down at his cell phone to make a call, looked up
and followed his friend’s truck across oncoming traffic, and never looked to
His car was struck in the driver’s
door by an oncoming truck, and the force of the collision spun his car around
and it was hit again by a second truck in almost the exact same location on the
This journey through the valley of shadows and sorrow is difficult
and never ending, and we struggle every day since Brian’s death to be strong
and carry on without him.
For the last ten years, we focused our outreach efforts on teens,
and through them, endeavored to reach their families; sadly, it hasn’t been nearly
enough, as evidenced by the upward trend in crashes, injuries and fatalities
across this great state.
In late 2015, we collaborated with (now former) Senator Jeff Tarte
to introduce hands-free legislation in the NC General Assembly which became
known as The Brian Garlock Act. Unfortunately, that bill never gained
significant support and was never heard. Tarte also introduced this legislation
in 2017 with unfortunately the same result.
Despite these setbacks, we continued to hold out hope when early this
year Representative Kevin Corbin (R- Macon) introduced the Hands Free NC Act,
modeled after the recently enacted hands-free law in Georgia. The proposed House bill has a bipartisan list
of forty-six sponsors, but support in the Senate remains not quite as certain.
Logically, we know legislation shouldn’t be driven by emotion nor
be developed in response to prevailing sentiment in a given moment. In fact,
I’ve had those things stated to me almost verbatim several times when speaking
to state legislators about this very issue. For me it begs the question, then what
should it be based upon? What will it
take to convince a legislator that this is right decision and the next logical
Me and my family have driven many miles and spent more than a few
hours speaking with legislators, offering up recent research data, current
traffic safety statistics from North Carolina as well as from Georgia, and of
course, providing the perspective from our own personal area of expertise: life
after losing Brian.
A wise person recently reminded me, “The legislative process is a
marathon Tammy, not a sprint.” Our
experience over the years certainly bears this statement out, but when lives
are hanging in the balance, patience is not our strong suit.
We believe if sharing Brian’s story changes just one person’s
driving behavior and another family is spared the pain that is our constant
companion, then his death will not have been in vain.
If sharing it with state legislators will help convince them to do
that which we cannot – enact a hands-free law that will help change EVERY
person’s driving behavior in North Carolina – then we will finally be able to
rest a little easier, knowing we’ve done all that we could possibly do.