MORRISTOWN, NJ -  The statistics associated with drunk and drugged driving are staggering state Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD);  300,000 incidents a day, 10,876 deaths a year and 290,000 injuries per year. Driving drunk and/or drugged comes with a cost and that cost robs us of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, spouses and friends, state the organization.

Bobby Petrocelli was robbed of a loved one.

The sports coach, kissed his wife Ava goodnight and went to sleep beside her. He woke up in his dining room next to a Ford 150 pickup truck and, injured and covered in glass and blood, he cried out for his wife. He slowly realized that the mattress they were sleeping on was under the truck with his wife still on it. When he awoke in a hospital room, the police Chaplin informed him that Ava was dead.

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The driver of the truck was drunk. He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to ten years. He served four months.

Petrocelli and his wife had been married for 2 ½ years. Since that fateful day 34 years ago, he has spoken as a motivational speaker 5,500 times to schools, sports teams and corporations with his message of "You Matter".

On October 15, he spoke to the high school students of Academy of St. Elizabeth. Lynn Burek, principal of the school, stated “safe driving is such an important topic with so much distracted driving. We want to keep our students safe.”

Teri DiGrande, a St.Elizabeth parent and State Farm agent in Morris Plains, was instrumental in arranging a grant from State Farm to sponsor the talk. Jennifer Young, a State
Farm Public Affairs Specialist, explained that State Farm provides grants to communities and educational programs to encourage safe driving and has done so in several towns in New Jersey. This is State Farm’s third year sponsoring talks by Petrocelli.

Car crashes are the number one killer of teens in the United Sates. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost 29 people in the U.S. die in alcohol-impaired vehicle crashes each day.

Devyn DiGrande, a senior at St. Elizabeth and president of its Honors Society, introduced Petrocelli to the audience. He proceeded to both entertain with Brooklyn-bred humor and pathos. Rather than explicitly advising the students not to drink and drive, he conveyed a more subtle message: that every choice or decision you make, makes you who you are; that you can’t make a good and bad decision at the same moment; that you are not defined by what has happened to you; and that each and everyone one of you matters.

He spoke of how he survived this tragedy by finding greater faith and choosing to forgive. He believes that the drunk driver who killed his wife drank because he was anesthetizing a broken heart.

He welcomed the students to meet him after the talk and provided books, wrist bands, and stickers promoting his “You Matter” campaign. He accepted donations which are used to support people who are rescued from the sex trade.

 

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