Fighting against distracted driving: Fairfield woman honors late sister with efforts

Erica Easley’s death two years ago will not be for nothing, said her sister.

Last year, Stefanie Easley, of Fairfield, started the Erica Easley Foundation to reduce the times people drive distracted. Because that’s why her sister, and two other women, died on a Cincinnati highway in January 2021.

Easley didn’t imagine she’d start a foundation in her sister’s memory nearly a year and a half after her death “because my mental capacity and the grief was just overcoming me.” But when she did start the Erica Easley Foundation, Easley said she wanted to leave “a positive legacy of my sister.”

“My only sister cannot die and it be for nothing,” Easley said. “So if I can say or get somebody to pause or put a phone down or stop eating, or just anything that distracts them get them home safely, that’s what I’m about.”

The northbound lanes of Interstate 75, just south of the Interstate 74 split near Hopple Street, were shut down for hours after the crash that killed Erica Easley, as well as Alice Richardson and Natasha Moore, according to WCPO in Cincinnati.

Easley said her sister was in the vehicle with four others. The driver and one of the backseat passengers survived the accident. Easley said one of the passengers asked the driver to wave to her social media audience on Snapchat. The driver did, and not even a moment later, the car crashed into an impact attenuator, the crash cushion that splits I-75 and I-74, at 70 miles an hour.

The driver was sentenced in December 2021 to seven years in prison after pleading to three counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, according to Hamilton County court records. Though his blood-alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit, Brandon Davis told the presiding judge being distracted “was the cause,” according to 2021 Cincinnati media reports.

The foundation’s goal, she said, is to educate all drivers, from experienced to the novice, “because I feel like if we instill good habits, they will continue on.”

And it’s not just the responsibility of the driver to not be distracted. The adage of “see something, say something” should be in the mindset of every passenger “because, at the end of the day, it is your life, and you’re putting it in the hands of a driver. Speak up, whether you’re in the backseat or the front seat.”

Ohio’s new distracted driving law went into effect earlier this month where law enforcement officers can pull a driver over if they appear to be using a cellphone as they operate their vehicle. Easley said the law “is way long overdue.”

The Eric Easley Foundation will be at the Closing the Health Gap Expo in Washington Park in Cincinnati on April 29, passing out literature about this new law.

“If you’re going to do this,” Easley said of using a cellphone while driving, “there has a consequence. There’s no such thing as multi-tasking behind the wheel. Everybody’s invincible until it happens.”

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