Teen Accident Victim Makes a Difference

For 16-year-old Ashley Biersach, that day in May 2002 started just like any other one, but before the afternoon was over her life would be changed forever. Now because of Ashley's bravery and determination some teens might live to a ripe old age instead of succumbing to the number one teen killer in the nation: traffic accidents.

When Ashley got into the car with several of her classmates that day almost a year ago, she was a typical teenager with her whole life ahead of her. Instead, her young life almost ended that afternoon. The young driver, a friend of Ashley's, was taking a car full of students back to school from lunch, when a distraction caused the driver lose control of the car. It slammed into a light pole at nearly 60 mph. Though she was in the backseat of the car with two other girls, Ashley was crushed from the waist down.

"I could see that my right foot was severed and that my left foot was hurt pretty badly," Ashley remembered. "The only thing I could do was try to help my friends beside me. One was unconscious, so I gave her CPR, and she started breathing again."

Then, maintaining her courage in the face of immense pain and personal tragedy, she held the hands of both girls while they waited for rescue workers to remove them from the mangled car. The front passenger was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, and the driver died in the hospital a few days later. Ashley and her friends in the backseat survived -- but all had serious injuries. Doctors were forced to amputate Ashley's right leg, and she has several more surgeries scheduled.

Others might have left the weight of the tragedy crush their spirit, but Ashley emerged from the accident with a strong sense of purpose. When she was finally released from the hospital 49 days after the crash, she felt strongly about telling her story to other teenagers in an effort to get them to think twice about the inherent responsibility that is necessary to drive a vehicle safely.

"What happened to me and my friends was a nightmare," Ashley said. "If I can help save one person's life by sharing my story, it will be worth it."

To deliver that message nationwide. Ashley has teamed up with the non-profit driver education program called Driver's Edge and Bridgestone/Firestone, the company that has become the program's sponsor. As a part of the Driver's Edge program, Ashley will travel to more than 11 cities, speaking at events where teens are given free driving lessons by professionals. Under the tutelage of Driver's Edge instructors, students learn defensive driving skills, including evasive lane changes, anti-lock and panic braking maneuvers, and skid control.

"I wish a program like Driver's Edge had been offered to me and to my friends," Ashley said. "It's so important that teenagers learn how to drive safely. It's truly a matter of life and death."

Students may get more information and register to attend one of the 11 events by calling 1-877-633-EDGE (3343).

Driving Today Managing Editor Jack R. Nerad writes frequently about safety issues.