A local grad student is turning tragedy to triumph, using her personal story to help change the bad habits that many drivers don’t even think twice about.
On June 1, 2011, 28-year-old Toni Bollis was driving home on Pitman-Downer Road in Washington Township after visiting her doctor. Suddenly her car was struck by a 21-year-old driver who was allegedly distracted behind the wheel. Toni was only two days away from delivering her second child. Both Toni and her unborn son died during the crash.
“He had told me he was on his GPS or cell phone or something, very disheveled and what not,” said Toni’s sister, Angela Donato. “It’s the worst thing that could happen to a family and the worst thing that could happen to anyone. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”
The tragedy inspired Angela to educate drivers about the consequences of driving while distracted. The Cabrini College grad student recently shared her story with students at Clearview Regional High School in Gloucester County. On Friday she plans to speak with students at Washington Township High School, where she went as a teen.
“If I can speak to them and let them know how powerful their word is to say ‘put your cell phone down’ or ‘I’ll send the text message,’ or ‘put your GPS in before you are going to your destination,’ or ‘pull over,’” said Angela.
All of the students Angela speaks with will receive green t-shirts donated by the Academy of Driving. Not only is green the color for safe driving awareness but it was also Toni’s favorite color.
In addition to speaking with students, Angela and her family are also pushing for legislation that makes the penalty for a fatal accident involving driving while using a cell phone as stiff as a deadly DUI accident.
“There’s going to be a change. I’m going to make a change,” said Angela. “She was my hero. She was a wonderful, wonderful woman and didn’t deserve to die at 28.”