Tragedy leads one father to do his part to stop teen driving deaths


BLUFFTON, S.C. (WSAV) – As Distracted Driving Awareness Month continues, one father wants to warn teachers about the problem.

Phillip Lutzenkirchen was a star tight end at Auburn with an NFL tryout and his first real job on the horizon. 

In 2014, he was killed in a crash where both he and his driver were drunk.

“Mr. Lutzenkirchen, my name is so and I’m the coroner of Troup County, Georgia. There was an accident last night and Phillip is dead,” Mike Lutzenkirchen remembers of the night he found out about his son’s death.

Now Lutzenkirchen is making sure Phillip’s death isn’t in vain through the Lutzie 43 Foundation and the 43 Key Seconds campaign.

On Monday, he took his message to students in the Lowcountry, passing out “key” lanyards as a reminder to not drive impaired.

“I hope they look at that key and say, ‘Man, I can’t do that. That’s from the dad that came and talked, that’s from that player that lost his life,’” explained Lutzenkirchen.

Hundreds of students listened intently to the father’s story and his message about the dangers of distracted driving.

“That really hit home for me, and just knowing that he’s taking something so terrible and making something so amazing out of that, I think a lot of our students will benefit from that,” explained Bluffton student Grey Anne Cummings.

“I think its saving lives from our peers,” said Melida Molina, a Bluffton High student. “I don’t think anyone of us wants to get a new report that says, ‘Hey, one of your peers died from drinking or texting and driving or anything like that.’”

Every student got a 43 key seconds lanyard and a key with their school name and logo on it. It’s a visual reminder Lutzenkirchen is asking every student to put in their cars.

He hopes they leave with more than just the free gifts, but something to think about the next time and every time they get behind the wheel.

Lutzenkirchen believes Phillip would want it that way.

“He’s going to say ‘Dad, I’m proud,'” Lutzenkirchen said. “‘I’m proud you took a situation I created inadvertently, it wasn’t intentional, and used it to do something for someone else.'”

Tuesday the Lutzie Foundation will announce a partnership with the Town of Bluffton for the 43 Key Seconds campaign to spread the word about those key seconds that could potentially save a life.

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