Early in 2016, Judge William Craig Hall gave permission to the Collierville High School Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO) to use the courtroom for a meeting and special presentation. Judge Hall decided to listen to speaker Larissa Thompson himself and was so impressed, he asked her to partner with The Town of Collierville’s court system and give her talk as part of their Juvenile Probation Program for traffic offenders. She agreed, and has recently given her 16th monthly presentation for the Town.
Though the program was originally intended for juveniles, Court Clerk Patrick Lafferty said it has grown to include adults. The audience for Thompson’s story – that of losing her fiancé Clifton Gibbs to a car accident involving texting - has grown, and is reflected in sobering statistics like these from websites like distracteddrivingaccidents.com: Texting while driving causes a 400% increase in time spent with eyes off the road; texting and driving is 6 times more likely to get you in an accident than drunk driving, and every day, 11 teenagers die because they were texting while driving.
Judge Hall’s intuition about the timeliness of Thompson’s presentation has been proven correct. So far this year (through 9/30/2017), here have been 5,291 distracted driving related crashes in Shelby County and 193,426 in all of Tennessee. (tn.gov/safety/article/crashdata).
After watching Thompson’s presentation, Collierville traffic offenders are required to write an essay about what they saw and heard. It’s Judge Hall’s hope that hearing Thompson’s story and then putting their thoughts about it on paper will make these drivers pay more attention when they are behind the wheel.