July 24, 2016

Partly cloudy

Dad continues daughter’s legacy

MONTVILLE TWP. — Ray Sanderbeck is taking his late daughter’s legacy to the Ohio General Assembly and to Capitol Hill, with two new bills aimed at increasing safety for teen drivers.

On Friday at his home, the fifth anniversary of 15-year-old Michelle Sanderbeck’s death in a car accident, Sanderbeck talked about the legislation he is proposing to bring a simulated driving curriculum to high schools throughout Ohio.

Ray Sanderbeck poses with a photo of his late daughter, Michelle, at his Montville Township home Friday. (LISA HLAVINKA / GAZETTE)

Ray Sanderbeck poses with a photo of his late daughter, Michelle, at his Montville Township home Friday. (LISA HLAVINKA / GAZETTE)

“In today’s economy, this is so important because levies are failing and schools can’t afford these (simulation) machines,” he said. “The beautiful thing is it will support the education without requiring taxation.”

Michelle, a passenger in a car driven by another teenager, was killed in a March 4, 2006, crash. Since then, her parents have worked to increase safe driving among teens through Michelle’s Leading Star Foundation.

The Michelle Sanderbeck Economy Drivers Educational Safety Bill would require municipal clerks of court to collect $2 or $5 per traffic penalty to provide funds to Michelle’s Leading Star Foundation, which works to educate teen drivers and reinforce safe driving habits.

“People breaking the law will pay for it, so hopefully it will help create awareness among them to practice better driving habits,” Sanderbeck said.

He said proceeds would be earmarked specifically to fund simulated driving curriculum like that available at Medina High School. The training is designed by Simulator Systems International, and makes use of virtual simulators that include behind-the-wheel tutorials and driving exercises with more than 200 real-life scenarios.

Sanderbeck also has worked to raise money for teen driver’s education through Michelle’s Leading Star Foundation license plates.

House Speaker Bill Batchelder, R-Medina, sponsored House Bill 133 to create the license plate, and former Gov. Ted Strickland signed it in June 2010.

The plates carry the foundation’s star-shaped logo and $10 from each plate sold benefits teen driver’s education.

Sanderbeck said he also is considering putting the simulators on a bus that would travel to different schools throughout the state providing driving education.

About 1,200 Medina High School students have attended the program, which is instructed by local law enforcement officers.

He is encouraging supporters to write Batchelder to support his bill proposal. To write, visit Michelle’s Leading Star Foundation website, www.mstarfoundation.com, and click on “get involved.”

A spokesman from Batchelder’s office said the bill was under consideration for sponsorship.

In the meantime, Sanderbeck will speak to Congress on Tuesday in support of the proposed Safe Teen Driver Uniform Protection Act. The measure would enforce national standards for graduated driver’s licensing laws, which give teens licenses in three stages: learner’s permit, intermediate stage and full licensure.

It would raise the age to receive a learner’s permit to 16. It also would prohibit the use of cell phones and communication devices while driving, and prohibit teens from driving at night without a licensed driver older than 21.

“I get a sense of fulfillment, yet a sense of sadness,” he said. “All her life, Michelle wanted to help people, so I’m trying to do that for her.”

Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or lhlavinka@medina-gazette.com.