COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL)— The Georgia Department of Transportation partnered up with the Lutzie 43 Foundation to host their 3rd Safe Driving Summit in Columbus, Georgia. Students from all over Muscogee County were shown real life scenarios to cut down on unsafe driving practices.

Founder of Lutzie 43 Foundation, Mike Lutzenkirchen, got a life-changing call one summer, Sunday morning in 2014.

“He said, ‘Mr. Lutzenkirchen. There was a crash last night and Philip is dead,'” Lutzenkirchen said.

His son and former Auburn football star, Philip, was killed in a single vehicle accident in LaGrange, Georgia. As a passenger without a seatbelt, Philip was ejected from the car after the driver failed to stop at a stop sign at an intersection. Both Philip and the driver were legally intoxicated and pronounced dead on the scene, two other passengers survived. This is the tragedy that started the Lutzie 43 Foundation, that has spent almost 10 years talking to students about safe driving practices.

Monday, the Lutzie 43 foundation partnered with state and local first responders to speak to nearly 400 Muscogee County School District students about the dangers of distracted driving.

The event was hosted by Columbus State University, just 35 miles from the site where Philip was killed.

“I’m a big believer that time heals a lot of things, it doesn’t bring my son back, hasn’t really told me why this is all happened. But I have strong faith I will know the answer someday. I get signs every day why we’re doing this, and to have 225 to 300 kids in here that are going to learn from my son’s life story that overcomes the emotions of being so close to Lagrange, where the crash site was,” Lutzenkirchen said.

The Lutzie 43 Foundation partnered with the Georgia Department of Transportation in 2020 to help get their message out: 43 key seconds. It only takes 43 seconds to clear your head, hands, eyes, and buckle your seatbelt.

According to the Georgia Department of transportation, last year the U.S. saw 42,000 crashes on U.S. roadways. Nearly 2,000 of those in the state of Georgia. Officials also say since 2013, Muscogee County ranks in the top 10 cities with the most crashes.

Natalie Dane with GDOT says trends in distracted driving related crashes increased during the pandemic.

“Before the pandemic, we really were beginning to see a reduction in fatalities, not a big one, but every life matters. And so, we were beginning to see that reduction during the pandemic. During the COVID pandemic, we saw sort of the return to these very unsafe driving habits, a lot of speeding, a lot of fatalities, a lot of impaired driving. These things continue to contribute to fatalities and accidents on our roadways. And these are oftentimes first time or not even drivers yet. And we want to get that information to them so that they can start off on the right foot with that safe driving background,” Dale said.

First responders with Piedmont Columbus Regional, pediatric trauma surgeons from Atlanta, the Georgia State Patrol, Columbus Police Department, the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office, Wellstar, and more were all apart of Monday’s summit to help remind young drivers to take 43 seconds before starting their journey.

Students from Kendrick, Northside, Spencer, Carver, Columbus, Jordan, Rainey McCullers School of Arts, Hardaway, and Shaw high schools were all in attendance.