Jeff Van Drew: Real People, Part II : News Room : The Van Drew Team for Change : Jeff Van Drew, Bob Andrzejczak and Bruce Land
Jeff Van Drew: Real People, Part II
Last month, I wrote in this space about three families who used tragedy, grief and pain as their motivation to help change New Jersey laws in the hope that others would be spared their suffering. This month, I am sharing the stories of three additional families who have made a similar difference and who worked with me and my Assembly colleagues, Nelson Albano and Matt Milam.
The Gross family and the 4-way stop at Forest Grove Road and North East Boulevard intersection in Vineland. Jeffrey Gross was killed in a traffic accident at this intersection, the scene of fatal crashes in 2005, 06 and 07. Jeffrey’s mom and dad approached Assemblyman Albano and me and asked us to convince the state Department of Transportation to make the intersection a 4-way stop. We immediately reached out to the DOT, and the Gross family and friends began circulating a petition supporting our efforts, collecting thousands of signatures. Following our meeting with DOT officials, the Commissioner informed us that our request would be granted, which will certainly help spare the lives of others and the suffering of the Gross family. Their commitment to accomplish this goal was truly responsible for the DOT’s decision and the prevention of similar tragedies and pain that would experienced by the loved ones of those whose lives will not be lost as Jeffrey’s was.
Chuck Moren, Scott and Maureen Lozier and Josh and Craig’s Law. Josh Moren and Craig Lozier were also teenagers when they were killed in separate traffic accidents involving drivers who were significantly over the state’s DUI intoxication limit, so much so that it was a wonder these drivers could operate a motor vehicle. They were also found to have mixed alcohol with drugs. The Morens and the Loziers asked me and Assemblymen Albano and Matt Milam to introduce legislation that would stop those who mix a toxic cocktail of drugs and alcholol, or who are many times over the legal limit and are in a stupor, or who are repeat offenders. We then introduced legislation to increase the penalties for vehicular homicides committed by these drivers from five to 10 years to 10 to 15 years and from 10 to 20 years to 15 to 25 years for such fatalities that take place within 1,000 feet of a school property or at a school property. The value of the tireless efforts of these two families to promote and gather public support for Josh’s and Craig’s Law cannot be undervalued, nor can the fact that remain shoulder to shoulder with me and Assemblymen Albano and Milam as we push for passage of our bill.
Erin Keiser, Tonya Ventreska and Chloe’s and Samantha’s Law. This legislation is the result of the advocacy of these two mothers whose young daughters were tragically killed when heavy television sets fell on them. At their request, I met with them to discuss their pleas for a law that would help prevent similar deaths in the future, and I and Assemblymen Albano and Milam wrote Chloe’s and Samantha’s Law. That law now requires the most dangerous types of furniture and appliances (furniture with drawers that children can pull out and climb on to, entertainment centers, TV sets and computers and appliance such as stoves) carry a warning to let parents know that children under 10 years of age can be seriously injured or killed when such fixtures are tipped over, and would require those who sell them to inform consumers about safety devices such as fabric wall straps that are secured to a wall. Erin and Tonya worked tirelessly with Assemblymen Albano and Milam and me to create this law.
Brenda and Bill Williams and Jason’s Light. On May 25, 2008, 25-year-old Jason Williams – a father, a son and a friend to many – was killed by a motorist at the intersection of Old Deerfield Pike and Laurel Heights Drive in Upper Deerfield Township. On January 5, Brenda and Bill pulled the switch that turned on a traffic signal, that will forever be called “Jason’s Light,” at that intersection. Between the date Jason lost his life and installation of that traffic signal by the Department of Transportation, Bill and Brenda made it their business to convince the DOT that the light would save others from the pain they had to endure. They came to Assemblyman Albano as well as the Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders and asked us to join in their fight to convince the DOT of the need for the light, which we were all too glad to do. They also gathered some 4,000 signatures on a petition for the signal to the DOT. Their relentless efforts got the job done and Assemblymen Albano and Milam and I were honored to help.
It has been truly inspiring to work with these families and those included in my column last month, to share their pain and their grief, and then to see first hand how hard they were willing to work to change laws that failed to protect their loved ones and sufficiently punish those responsible. Assemblymen Albano and Milam and I will continue to have an open door policy for anyone who wants us to listen to suggestions for making lives better and safer.