Houston Chronicle

A poignant call for safer driving

Group was founded by parents who lost daughter in accident

- By Alex Park alex.park@chron.com

David and Wendy Mills join Metro officials Monday to promote safe teen driving and seat belt use. The Mills began a nonprofit to honor their daughter, who died in an accident.

Morning Metro riders at the Cypress Park & Ride station on Monday were greeted by five representa­tives from the Kailee Mills Foundation handing out flyers, stickers and car decals about seat belt safety.

The Kailee Mills Foundation is a local group promoting teen driver and seat belt safety that has partnered with Metro to spread its message to a wider audience across the region.

David and Wendy Mills launched the foundation after the death of their 16-year-old daughter Kailee in an automobile accident last October. Kailee removed her seat belt seconds before the car crashed, and was the only fatality.

The partnershi­p with Metro was finalized a few weeks ago, said agency spokeswoma­n Monica Russo.

For Metro, it marks the launch of a new kind of safety campaign. It represents the first time that the agency has teamed up with an outside group for a safety campaign not specifical­ly related to Metro’s service.

The collaborat­ion was months in the making. In March, David Mills met with Thomas Lambert, president and CEO of Metro, and Jerome Gray, executive vice president of Metro, for initial discussion­s about working together on a driversafe­ty campaign. Lambert’s daughter-in-law was the principal at Klein Collins High School, which Kailee had attended.

“We are very honored to partner with the Kailee Mills Foundation, and to help support their efforts to raise teen driving and elder driving safety awareness and seat belt usage,” Lambert said.

Metro has already begun to utilize its own vehicles as reminders of seat belt safety. “We have placed the stickers on more than a hundred vehicles — police vehicles as well as Metro service vehicles,” Metro Police Chief Vera Bumpers said.

David and Wendy Mills planned through Wednesday to visit 10 of Metro’s Park & Ride facilities with other volunteers to hand out materials promoting seat belt safety and a 5K fundraiser on June 23, the proceeds of which will go toward college scholarshi­ps for students who have lost a family member in an automobile accident. They chose the Park & Ride stations because they knew that everyone passing through had to drive a car to get there, David Mills said. The foundation hopes to reach many people through this three-day campaign — the 10 stations combined see an average of 10,889 vehicles per day, and the entire Park & Ride system has an average daily ridership of 31,358.

Among those working at the Cypress station was 13-year-old Kaitlyn Winston. A close friend of Kailee’s, she has worked with the foundation since November in the hopes of preventing tragedies like her friend’s. Almost eight months after the accident, Kailee’s loss lingers.

“I’m still a little shocked,” Winston said. “But I know (Kailee)’s in a good place now, and I have to be happy.”

 ?? Melissa Phillip / Houston Chronicle ??
Melissa Phillip / Houston Chronicle
 ?? Melissa Phillip / Houston Chronicle ?? Kailee Mills Foundation stickers are being placed on Metro vehicles as a reminder to buckle up.
Melissa Phillip / Houston Chronicle Kailee Mills Foundation stickers are being placed on Metro vehicles as a reminder to buckle up.

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