Freshman educates, raises awareness about distracted driving

Freshman Emma Grace O'Rourke sharing her story at a local high school
Freshman Emma Grace O’Rourke sharing her story at a local high school

A Schuylerville High School freshman is traveling to local schools to raise awareness about the consequences of distracted driving. Emma Grace O’Rourke was 10 years old when her father was seriously injured in a car crash caused by a reckless driver. Since then, O’Rourke has been educating, advocating and bringing awareness relating to her personal experiences at the community, state and federal levels.

“My story is an example of what happens when someone breaks the law,” O’Rourke said. “I’ve been sharing what my life was like before the crash and what my life is like now in the hopes that I can make a difference.”

Last year, O’Rourke’s efforts led the state Senate to unanimously pass “Emma’s Law.” The measure is currently being reviewed by the Assembly’s Codes Committee. “Emma’s Law” would amend state law to enable the victim of a misdemeanor crime to make a statement at the sentencing of a defendant.

For the past two years, O’Rourke has been sharing her story as a presentation through Cornell Cooperative’s “License to Live” program. She hopes her message will convey the importance of driving responsibly.

“I feel I can connect with the students because we’re mostly the same age,” O’Rourke said. “Many students go into the presentation thinking it’s an easy pass from class, but I hope they leave realizing how much their actions can impact other people. No one wants to be the reason behind a broken family, and if they think about their actions, they don’t have to be.”

O’Rourke has also teamed up with CBS 6 News in an effort to advocate good choices while driving and bringing awareness to traumatic brain injuries. Her Public Service Announcement is below. She also traveled to Washington D.C., in March with her parents to speak with congressional members about amending a federal law that potentially impacts Americans with long-term disability benefits through their employers. O’Rourke says the past few years have been incredibly difficult for her family, but they have helped shape her future plans.

“It has been really hard on my family and I wish it never happened, but it has given me so many opportunities for my future,” O’Rourke said. “I know I want to advocate for human rights and possibly go into criminal justice.”

Public Service Announcement through CBS 6 News