Every time Tom Geary gets behind the wheel of a car the first thing he does is put on his seat belt. The extra safety the thin chest strap and lap belt provide offers him peace of mind and a degree of comfort.
I always felt more secure in the car wearing one, said Geary, surrounded by the deep blue walls of the Geary Gallery in Darien. That comfort and reassurance is something he will always wish his teenage daughter had shared.
Most of Darien's parents and teens are familiar with the story of 17-year-old Cassidy Geary. She was on her way home from her boyfriend's house Jan. 6, 2008, when she lost control of her car and hit a telephone pole and stone wall. She died from blunt force trauma. Police confirmed no drugs or alcohol were involved, nor was she traveling excessively fast. However, she wasn't wearing a seat belt.
It doesn't sound like much, 30 mph, said Geary, commenting on how fast the police estimate she was traveling. I mean, Olympic athletes practically run that fast today.
In the years since Cassie's accident, Geary and his wife Anne have been telling everyone about the importance of buckling up. To that end, they launched the Click It For Cassie campaign featuring a website and bumper stickers.
While talking about Click It For Cassie , Geary remembered something and asked his wife, Ann, to go retrieve it from a desk in the office. She returned with an Ann Landers column written years before Cassie's accident.
In the column, a reader asked Landers to reprint an earlier essay by John Berrio, written in the first-person from the perspective of a teenage driver who dies as a result of driving irresponsibly. Geary had given a copy of the column to his oldest son, Shane, when he learned to drive. Shane still had it in his car when Cassie died.
That column should be mandatory reading for anyone going to get his or her license for the first time, said Geary. He said he was surprised to discover Shane had kept it all those years.
As the Click It For Cassie campaign has grown, Geary asked people to send them pictures of the campaign stickers wherever they find them. It turns out, people are honoring Cassie's memory and taking her story to heart all around the world.
I think in the three years since we started the bumper stickers, we've sent out more than 10,000 all around the world, said Geary. He has seen photos of the stickers in Europe and Australia.
Last year, Geary had an opportunity through some acquaintances to create a full-page advertisement to run in four national magazines: Seventeen , Good Housekeeping , Redbook and Women's Day . The ad ran in each publication zone across the nation at least once and is poised for a second round.
The Gearys also participate in education programs and talks to spread the word about car safety. For Tom, there is one simple thought he would like to convey. One of the things I would like to ask a new teenage driver is to think about their parents and what they would go through if the teenager died. What happens to everyone else when you are gone in an accident that could have been avoided?
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