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A new campaign, which hopes to raise awareness about distracted and impaired driving, was launched this month.


Named City of Angel5 — Long Live the Legacy of Five, the campaign hopes to make young people aware of the possible consequences of speeding and driving impaired or while distracted.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Gathering at Oregon City Physical Therapy to support Drive for Five are Elizabeth Mertino (from left), Ryan Wells, Carly Levario (OCHS student athlete), Matt Rogers, Teryn Kaldheim, Anthony Saviola and Adam Fagan.The genesis of the campaign is the crash that took the lives of two young students last year. On June 8, 2014, West Linn High School softball star Maddi Higgins, 17, was a passenger in her friend, 18-year-old Clackamas Community College student Hayden Soyk’s car when his vehicle struck a telephone pole. Speed was determined to be a factor in the crash.

Sadly, these were not the only teens lost in vehicular crashes within the past year. On Feb. 20, 18-year-old Madison West was killed when her Saturn sedan crossed into the incoming lane and collided head-on with a Hummer H3 SUV. Speed also was determined to be a factor in this incident. The Oregon City High School senior recently had found out she was the recipient of a full scholarship to the University of Portland.

FILE PHOTO BY: ELLEN SPITALERI - A memorial spontaneously appeared in February at Oregon City High School for Maddy West, a senior who just had received a full scholarship to attend the University of Portland when she died in a car crash.Just one day later, two more teens died in a single crash. West Linn High School students Cooper Hill, 17, and Antonio Caballero, 16, were killed when the Honda Accord they were passengers in was rear-ended by a Jeep. The driver of the Accord was forced to brake suddenly due to another car having stopped in front of him. The 35-year-old Jeep driver, however, failed to brake at all and collided at full speed with the Accord. He was subsequently charged at the scene with second-degree negligent driving.

As West Linn and Oregon City schools, families and communities mourned the loss of these five teens, it became clear that something had to be done to educate drivers and prevent further tragedies.

As a result, the awareness campaign City of Angel5 was born. As to the name, Janelle Lawrence, executive director of the nonprofit Oregon Impact that promotes safe driving, explained: “The concept was originally developed by Carrie Higgins to remember her daughter, Maddi, who was a well-known softball player and always used No. 5. However, when the additional students were lost, the No. 5 had a whole new meaning and the Higgins family made the decision to remember all the students.”

Oregon Impact has, in a short time, partnered with Safe Communities-Clackamas County, Oregon City Community Education/Driver Education, Oregon City Together, OCPD and the OC Chamber of Commerce.

Oregon City commissioners offered their support after Commissioner Rocky Smith, who knew Maddie West personally as a teacher at OCHS, tearfully remembered a joint memorial service for both high schools at Clackamette Park.

“To see the two communities come together...that was a pretty incredible event. It was very moving,” Smith said.

City Manager David Frasher, whose brother was killed when Frasher was 21, said he wished there had been an app that turned off cell phones when they are in a moving vehicle. An app called DriveMode turns off cell phones over 15 miles per hour.

Matthew S. Rogers, clinic director at Therapeutic Associates, and his physical therapist co-workers in Oregon City, decided to get behind the City of Angel5 campaign after they had heard some concerns from parents and community members about safe teenage driving.

“This hit close to home for us since most of our staff grew up in Oregon City and the majority of our clientele is made up of Oregon City and West Linn High School athletes,” Rogers said. “Since our teenage clients are very active on social media, we are encouraging them to use the hashtag #DriveForFive and share it with their friends to get the word out about this campaign.”

State Farm later this year will launch a social media campaign where you can vote for the school of your choice each day. The school with the most votes wins a $100,000 grant. The program is called Celebrate My Drive asking students to keep two eyes on the road and two hands on the wheel.

Oregon City School District Community Education Coordinator Suz Maus said that the only scholarships she can give for driver education, a class about creating safe behaviors in the car, is when a student is on free or reduced lunch. If the people vote for Oregon City High School online, the school could get a $100,000 grant to fund the class.

“If any community can do it, I know we can,” Maus said.