A Mother’s Mission

The makeshift memorial for Conor Lynch on Woodman Avenue remains intact four years after his death. His mother is another reminder, as she continues her fight against distracted driving.

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    Pauline Adamek

It has been almost four years since Jeri Dye Lynch lost her eldest son, Conor. And still, recalling the tragic event she chokes back tears, struggling to maintain composure. The 16-year-old Notre Dame High School athlete was killed in a hit-and-run accident while traversing Woodman Avenue, trying to catch up with his cross-country teammates. 

“It’s so hard when I go back to that day. She hit him with the center of her vehicle while he was right in the middle of the crosswalk in the second lane. He crashed into her windshield, and then she threw him 100 yards across the street—right out of his shoes—and then kept driving,” Jeri recalls.

The driver was an 18-year-old woman operating a vehicle without a license. She pulled over after a short distance and flagged down police.

On the first anniversary of her son’s death, the former litigation attorney decided to do something with her grief. She became an activist, creating the Conor Lynch Foundation (inhonorofconor.org). The nonprofit promotes the safety of pedestrians, runners and cyclists and strives to raise awareness about the hazards of distracted driving.

The organization is not simply against texting, Googling or Facebooking but also making calls, applying makeup, snapping selfies—basically doing anything besides keeping both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. 

“It’s far worse than drunk driving,” Jeri insists. “Yet the penalties for distracted driving are little more than a slap on the wrist.” 

Adamant that current laws fail to reflect the severity of the crime, she tirelessly lobbies politicians to impose stiffer fines for negligent driving. Jeri, who is the president of Pinecrest Schools, frequently travels to Washington, D.C., to consult with officials about implementing federal legislation. She also speaks at high schools and often spends time with others who have lost someone due to a distracted driver. 

“Everybody knows they shouldn’t drive distracted, but for some reason they don’t see the consequences of their actions. It’s the faces and the stories that people can relate to,” she emphasizes. 

Through the foundation, Conor’s face and story will continue to be shared for years to come. The organization has created a cellphone app to help supporters stay informed and connected. They’ve also produced several PSAs and generated the hashtag #DontGetDead to share on Twitter.

And on October 26 the foundation will host the fourth annual 5K run/walk “In Honor of Conor.” Last year about 2,000 attendees took to the streets, kicking off from Van Nuys Sherman Oaks Park. 

“Conor, myself and his two younger brothers had always been runners, so it seemed natural to stage a run to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving,” Jeri says. “While we can’t bring Conor back, I believe we can help prevent other people from suffering the same tragedy.”