Billboards put local face to deadly distracted driving tragedies
Two new billboards in Lansing are putting a local face to deadly distracted driving tragedies.
The billboards remember and honor Jill Byelich of DeWitt who was riding her bicycle when she was hit and killed by a distracted driver in 2014.
There's one billboard located on Kalamazoo Street, west of Francis Avenue, and another on Cedar Street, south of Edgewood Boulevard.
The short, but powerful message reads: "DeWitt Cyclist. Wife. Mother. Killed By Distracted Driving." A smiling image of Jill sits beside the words.
It's a message and image Jordan Byelich hopes will catch drivers' attention as they pass by because the woman on the billboards was his wife.
"My understanding is they had looked at their cell phone or at least was distracted by it in some way shape or form and took their eye off the road just long enough to not avoid jill," Jordan said.
Jill was killed on September 2, 2014, just five miles west of DeWitt. She was 35 and left behind two young sons. The phone-using driver was later convicted of distracted driving.
"It hits home. It's right here in the greater Lansing area. It's in DeWitt. This is one of the greater Lansing area's citizens that was killed by someone that through a simple maneuver of their own thought process... this could have all been avoided," Jordan said.
The Tri-County Bicycle Association got Jordan's permission to use Jill's photo for the billboards to raise awareness and respect for bicyclists on the road.
"Many motorists look at bicyclists as the 'other', or some other kind of creature and so we thought this was a good way to say, hey, a bicyclist is just like you and he's your family member, your neighbor, your friend," said Phillip Wells, a member of Tri-County Bicycle Association.
Jordan said that he's glad the memory of Jill can be used in a positive way. "As tragic as an event as it was, it's an opportunity to notify and raise awareness about this. I think Jill would like that.".
Even in death, Byelich continues to set an example for others.