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How this mom turned tragedy into a mission to keep teen drivers safe

"When he died, I knew I had to save everyone I could.”
Julie Garner.PNG
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Kambria Cook.PNG
Posted at 5:06 PM, Nov 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-19 18:28:48-05

SPOTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. -- Julie Garner has been enduring a painful journey for 13 years. The Spotsylvania County woman carries a heavy burden.

“I literally felt like someone took their fist and shoved it inside me and twisted it,” said Julie.

On June 10, 2007, Julie’s only son, 16-year-old Hunter, was killed in a car crash. But within hours of Hunter’s death, Julie and her family took action.

Hunter hat.jpg
Hunter

“I knew in that moment. Call it mother's instinct or intuition or whatever you want. I knew he was dead. I knew he was dead,” said Julie. “So, when he died, I knew I had to save everyone I could.”

Out of the tragedy, Project Yellow Light was born.

“The goal is to save lives,” said Julie.

The nationwide competition encourages high school and college students to create their own PSA about the dangers of distracted driving.

“It kept me alive quite frankly and gave me a reason to live,” said Julie.

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Julie Garner

Julie believes young drivers will pay more attention if the message comes from their peers.

“They just don’t think it is going to happen to them. And it happens every day all across the country,” said Julie.

Kambria Cook from Chesterfield entered her PSA “Put Your Phone Down” this summer. The sophomore music education major at Clafin University always reminds friends to pay attention to the road.

“Anytime they do it I grab their phones. This is it. This is yellow light. We only have one life to live and we have to make good decisions. So I usually take their phone,” said Kambria.

The 20-year-old recently learned her film won the top spot, earning her a scholarship and her PSA showing in New York’s Times Square.

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Kambria Cook

“It is amazing to know your voice, seeing your vision can make a difference taking that one step, is always amazing to be a part of,” said Kambria.

While the accolades are cool, Kambria says her message is downright serious.

“You never know when something bad will happen so you have to stay alert and focused on the road,” she explained.

Julie still grieves for her only son Hunter who would have been 29-years-old. Knowing Hunter’s legacy lives on through Project Yellow Light and Kambria Cook provides inner peace.

“I know that young people had the best voice and ability to connect with each other in a way that adults can’t,” said Julie. “I just want them to realize how serious this is. I want them to stay alive. They have their whole lives ahead of them. Just be careful on the road.”

If you would like to enter the Project Yellow Light competition, click here.

Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email heroes@wtvr.com.

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