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Family of teen killed in I-39 crash pushes for new law in her name

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KAYTLYN THOMAS PKG

Wausau, Wis. (WAOW) -- Kronenwetter police say a wrong-way driver is to blame for 18-year-old Kaytlyn Thomas' death.

It happened on July 12th, ending Kaytlyn's life, along with the driver of the other car.

Kaytlyn had big plans for her life. She wanted a career in fashion, and was hoping to move to New York and model a career after the character Rachel from "Friends".

Her family remembers her fondly.

"She had these cheeks, and she always looked like she had a smile, and she was always interested in things that made her happy and were fun, that tended to bring a little of a sarcasm and a unique perspective on things," her dad Ron said.

Instead of getting to watch her career blossom, her family was left to grieve.

"We brought her into the world by choice, and we did that because we wanted to spend our lives with her. And just because she passed, and it was cut short, it doesn't end our commitment to her," Ron said.

But that grief didn't freeze them. Instead, it galvanized them.

Her dad Ron is now spearheading an effort to make accident prevention technology systems mandatory in new vehicles starting in 2025.

He calls it Kaytlyn's law.

"Because we're all more distracted, other are more distracted, so even if we're not, others tend to be. We always seem to be in a hurry."

The technology, he says, will be able to detect impaired or distracted drivers, and either pull their focus back on the road, or take over the car and slowly pull them over.

It's something he says will make an enormous impact.

"Based on government studies, we're losing about a trillion dollars of economic impact because of auto accidents, so just improving, or reducing and preventing some of them is a huge benefit to all of us," Ron said.

Ron's efforts for this new law are barely underway, but he says he'll keep fighting. Not just to protect other families from what they're going through, but because it's what his daughter would've wanted.

Her family is now raising money not only to support the creation of the law, but to also start a scholarship in her name.

Brad Hanson

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