Va. mother who lost teen daughter in car crash promotes driving safety through foundation

Robin Thompson. (WJLA photo)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WJLA) – One of our missions here at ABC7 is to help teen drivers stay safe on the roads with our Drive to Stay Alive program. This week’s Working Woman has made it her life’s goal to do the same thing, after feeling the pain of losing her teenage daughter.

Robin Thompson is proud to show off the newly published children’s book “How the Firefly Got its Name.” But she’s not the author—it was written by her daughter Ashley when she was in seventh grade.

“Several years after she died, I was going through her things and I found it,” Thompson said. “I found her original homework assignment, with her teacher’s comments on it and her ‘A.’”

Ashley was killed in a car accident in 2003 when she was 16 years old. The bright, outgoing and kind teen was alone in the car—no cell phone, no speeding, no impairment. Police think something distracted her on the road, causing her to swerve and overcorrect.

“That day she wasn’t doing anything necessarily wrong, she just didn’t have the skills and experience to handle the situation that arose,” Thompson said.

Since that terrible day, the pediatric nurse and retired Air Force officer has worked to save other families from the same pain. She speaks to teenagers and started a foundation called the Art of Driving.

Now, the fable written by Ashley is helping raise money for her cause. Thompson was handed the first copy of the book in October.

“I just sat there and cried,” she said. “I looked at that cover with her name on it and I think what I said was, ‘Ashley, you did it.’”

The Art of Driving hosted a 5K in Alexandria a few months ago. Thompson says with every event or speech, her goal is to reach just one young driver with her message, like the high schooler who recently approached her.

“[He said] ‘I never stopped to think what would happen to my mom if something happened to me,’” Thompson recalled. “He said, ‘Thank you. I need to be more careful.’”

The foundation also gives a scholarship each year in Ashley’s name. Thompson knows helping others is what Ashley would want her to do.

“Ashley truly lives on. She lives on through the foundation, she lives on through her adorable story,” she said.

Every penny from book sales of “How the Firefly Got its Name” goes directly to the Art of Driving foundation. Thompson hopes kids will love the story and parents will learn about Ashley, and get the message about teaching safe driving at a very young age.

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