Teen’s texting and driving death still a driving force for mom

Published 6:10 pm Sunday, January 7, 2018


It was seven years ago, on Jan. 5, that a teen’s death rocked Beaufort County. One moment, Sarah Edwards was alive; the next, her car had veered across the center line on Chandler Road near Chocowinity and Sarah’s car ran beneath the rear wheels of an oncoming logging truck. She was killed instantly.

It was a tragic accident that could have been avoided if Sarah hadn’t been texting and driving.

“At 3:42 that text came in, and at 3:42, she was underneath that log truck,” said her mother, Tracy O’Carroll.

Since Sarah’s death, O’Carroll has made it her life’s calling to speak out about texting and driving to both teens and parents. She’s made the rounds, traveling with Sarah’s crushed vehicle on display, to schools across the state, speaking about her daughter’s split-second glance at her phone that ended in her death. These days, she uses the accident reconstruction video made by the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, to drive the point home.

“When I tell (Sarah’s) story, it makes a big impact. But using the video has an even bigger impact on the parents and the teens,” O’Carroll said.

O’Carroll said that though North Carolina has made texting and driving a ticketed offense, she doesn’t think enough is being done to prevent the behavior.

“But my thing with that is some of the kids think ‘My parents will just pay the ticket.’ I think points should go on insurance,” she said.

O’Carroll said in the time since Sarah’s death, it seems awareness campaigns about the dangers of texting and driving have tapered off.

“When I do travel, I see people doing it all the time,” O’Carroll said. “It doesn’t get talked about as much. It’s not like it’s as big as it used to be.”

Sunday, Sarah’s friends and family will gather to release lighted paper lanterns, as they do every year, to honor her memory. O’Carroll chooses to honor it another way, as well—by continuing her quest to stop texting and driving.

“I want parents to stay on their teens and for parents to set an example: put that cell phone away. … Losing anyone is hard, but when you lose a child, I can tell you firsthand, there is a hole in my heart that cannot be replaced,” O’Carroll said. “I will keep her memory alive and continue to do what I do to save a life.”