This is Barbara Hoffman’s story. She has been a member of the Red Means Stop Traffic Safety Alliance for years and her story is one of countless others that have suffered the consequences of carelessness on our roadways. Barbara’s teenage daughter was involved in a car crash and while her daughter was recuperating from the injuries she sustained Barbara lost her son Michael to a red light runner.
“It is an understatement to say that car crashes have had a tremendous emotional toll on my life. In 2004, my teenage daughter, Jenn, took a trip to Rocky Point and on her way back, the driver lost control and rolled the car. My daughter was ejected and severely injured. She spent most of August in the hospital with a broken leg, ankle, back, pelvis, ribs plus kidney damage and bleeding in her brain. She survived but the brain injury has changed her life. She has a learning disability that has affected her behavior and schooling.
To top off the month of August, my 14 year old son, Michael, was visiting his sister at my home as she was in a hospital bed in my living room. They watched a movie and I saw him get up and give her a hug as he needed to go home to his dad’s house to feed his puppy. The next thing was a knock on my door. My next door neighbor and her two twin daughters where standing there crying. Michael was hit by a red light runner. My first thought was that my daughter would have to move over and share the hospital bed in my living room. When I arrived at the scene, the police wouldn’t let me see Michael. I sat on the side of the road waiting, when I started losing feeling in my arms and legs, so the paramedics put an oxygen mask on me. It felt like forever, but only minutes had passed when two men came to me and told me that they couldn’t save Michael. I was in total shock. Michael was my only son. He was my technology and mechanical genius. He was able to fix motors, bikes, VCR’s and wire up surround sound systems. He loved taking things apart and putting them back together. His blonde curly hair and his beautiful blue eyes attracted many fans. It was sweet to see all the notes and cards from his friends and family. We expected 50 people to attend his funeral but 450 people showed up.
The man who killed Michael was elderly. He wasn’t drunk or impaired by illegal drugs and he didn’t flee the scene. He only got punished for running the red light. He did not get punished for killing my son. I was very angry so I started to search the internet for laws to punish him. I found laws about yielding to children in crosswalks so I called the police officer assigned to the case. He refused to press any charges against the man. During my search, I came across an organization, now called the “Red Means Stop Traffic Safety Alliance”. I immediately contacted the number on the website and spoke to Frank Hinds. He also lost a child to a red light runner. He told me about Jennifer’s Law, named after his daughter, where the red light runner would get further punishment if they hurt or killed someone. I was more disappointed that the police didn’t use this law which was also on the books. I decided to honor Michael by joining the Red Means Stop Traffic Safety Alliance. I have participated in many events to raise awareness to the dangers and consequences of red light running. I am now the Vice President of the Board.”