It is my profound hope and prayer that people with teenage drivers will take a moment, grasp this, and forward it to help others. Nobody thinks he or she will lose a child. I didn’t think so either, but I was wrong. You could be too. Kailee was in the back seat of a car and unbuckled her seat belt to take a “selfie” with the other girl sitting next to her. This is the heartbreaking story of 16-year old Kailee Mills, as told by her parents.
In the blink of an eye, our 16-year-old daughter was gone. She had just left our home with her friends to go to a Halloween party. She was riding in the back seat, and they were only traveling a mile away from our home to a friend’s house. They were only a few blocks away from our home when the car she was riding in veered off the road. The car rolled over, Kailee was ejected from the back seat of the car, and died instantly. Her three friends walked away with only minor cuts and bruises. Kailee was the only one in the car not wearing a seat belt.
That was October 28, 2017—a day that we will never forget.
Meet Kailee and her Parents:
Just seconds before the crash, Kailee had removed her seat belt to slide over in the back seat to take a selfie with her friend, and it was that split second that shattered the hearts of so many. You hear stories all the time about crashes that happen in your neighborhood and people who were injured or killed and weren’t wearing their seat belts, and you hear it so often you almost become numb or indifferent to it. We never thought it would happen to us—to our daughter. We know that if she had been wearing her seat belt, she’d still be here. Instead, the girl we called our “ray of sunshine” is gone.
Kailee was very good about wearing her seat belt. In fact, we can’t recall one single time that we had to remind her to wear her seat belt and never caught her without it on. Her friends were all in shock because she was the one who always made sure everyone was buckled up and never put her car in drive until all of her passengers were buckled up. As a back seat passenger, close to home, not going far, she just let her guard down and had her seat belt off at the wrong time. These types of things happen in the blink of an eye and when you least expect it.
Kailee was a 4.3 GPA student at Klein Collins High School in Spring, TX, North of Houston and enjoyed spending her time helping other people and volunteering. She was someone you could meet just one time, and never forget her. Her laugh and her smile were contagious. She never met a stranger, and had a gift for making people feel comfortable. She took pride in her sense of humor and she always went out of her way to make sure everyone was having fun and laughing. Aside from playing volleyball, she was very active in the church youth group and in Young Life, she loved volunteering for National Charity League and Legacy League, and had a heart of gold. She was already taking 4 college classes as a high school junior and had plans to attend Texas A&M University to pursue a career in biomedical science. She was going to be a dermatologist one day.
We will never get to see her walk across the stage and collect her high school diploma, or walk her down the aisle at her wedding. What hurts the most is that we will never get to make new memories with her, or squeeze her in our arms and tell her we love her, or hold her child in our arms as our grandchild. All we are left with are memories and an emptiness that can never be filled.
In the weeks after the crash, we looked up statistics on seat belt use and traffic crashes. What we found not only surprised us, but made us sick to our stomachs as well. We learned how many people die each year on our roads because they weren’t buckled up, and how many lives could be saved. So many of these fatalities are completely preventable had they been wearing seat belts, and we are doing everything we can to change these statistics.
Car accidents are the leading cause of death in this country for people ages 1-54, and it doesn’t have to be that way. Each one of those fatalities leaves behind family and friends who must find the strength to carry on without them, and that deep loss is difficult and painful beyond words. We know that pain first-hand because we live with it every day. Even though surveys show that the seat belt use rate in this country has topped 90 percent in recent years, that still leaves over 35 million people who do not wear their seat belts!
We want our daughter’s story to serve as a reminder to others about the importance of wearing seat belts. Our goal is to prevent other families from having to go through the same pain and loss that we are going through, and carry out Kailee’s legacy in a way that she would have wanted by helping others.
We chose to honor our daughter by focusing our energy on something positive and raise awareness about the importance of seat belt use. We hope that what we are doing will inspire others to choose to do something positive with the tragedies in their lives.
Houston area listeners, make plans now to attend the Kailee Mills 5K Glow Run/Walk on June 23rd. For information and registration: https://www.kaileemillsfoundation.org/events
From two heartbroken parents, to you reading this now, here is our message:
- Always put on your seat belt—whether you are the driver or a passenger—BEFORE the vehicle is in motion.
- Make sure everyone in your vehicle is buckled up too!
- Talk to your children and CONTINUE talking to them about the importance of wearing a seat belt and what the risks are when you do not wear a seat belt.
- Parents, the responsibility behind the wheel is on us, too. How often do we, as adults, get in a hurry to get to our destination and not buckle up?
- It only takes three seconds to fasten your seat belt. Those three seconds can change your life and the lives of those who know and love you.
- How often do we unbuckle our seatbelts when we get close to our destinations? It takes NO effort to keep your seat belt on until you arrive safely.
- Drive responsibly. It’s not worth your life or your passenger’s life.
- Finally, know that if you have children, you are setting the driving example every time you get in the car, so PLEASE buckle-up, every trip, every mile!
Tags: Kailee Mills
Readers and listeners, please join me in supporting #buckleup4kailee by donating to the Kailee Mills Foundation from their website: https://www.kaileemillsfoundation.org