From left to right: Julie and Dave Wik, Amy LaVallee and Christine Secord organized last year's Just Drive event.
The bright orange shirts emblazoned with the words "Just Drive" succinctly says what Greg LaVallee wants all motorists to do while they are behind the wheel. In other words, he implores drivers to put down the phone.
"Our mission is simple, end distracted driving,"said LaVallee, whose son, Phillip, a decorated cross-country runner, was killed in 2013 when distracted driver hit him while he was out for a run.
For the second year, LaVallee, Monticello boys’ cross-country coach Dave Wik, and several people have joined together to put on Just Drive Day, which will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Monticello Middle School. During the six hours, people can walk, jog or bike along a 3-mile course around town that will be lined with facts about distracted driving and the sobering reminders of those killed in crashes. Posters featuring the faces of those, like Phillip, who have been killed in crashes involving distracted drivers.
"The goal we hope to achieve is that it will change the social norm," LaVallee said. People get in a car and "they pick up the phone. It's a social expectation to use the phone while you drive. There should be a stigma around distracted driving like there is drunken driving."
Participants are encouraged to wear orange. The color, Phillip's favorite, is bright and symbolizes the effort to shed light the growing problem of distracted driving. At least 25 percent of traffic deaths are blamed on distracted driving, according to the Department of Public Safety.
Representatives from the Minnesota Safety Council, Minnesotans for Safe Driving also will be on hand
Last year more than 100 people turned out for the first Just Drive Day. This year the effort has spread to nearby Albertville where the St. Michael-Albertville Women of Today will put on a small event.
The Great American Smoke Out, an effort to stamp out smoking, began in Monticello. LaValley hopes Just Drive will spread across the nation in the same way.
Phillip, 19, earned all-state honors as a senior in cross country, then ran for South Dakota State as a freshman.
"We hope more people will get concerned about the problem," he said. "We don't want Phillip's legacy to be distracted driving. We are trying to take action and make his life matter."