“He took care of his mother,” Lisa Smith told ABC11 as she remembered her son.
She remembers Drew as a warm, bright and very caring young man. She relied on him more than most moms rely on their children.
Living with multiple sclerosis, Smith needs extra help and Drew looked out for her.
“If I wanted to go to a friend’s house or something, he would take me in his car, then pick me up out of the car and take me in and he didn’t even think nothing of it,” Smith said.
She said even at 17, her son was a good driver. But his friend was behind the wheel Halloween night in 2008 when he lost control on a country road.
He survived but Drew did not. Police say speed was a factor.
Smith later learned Drew’s seatbelt didn’t work.
Every month she goes back to Drew’s school, South Johnston High, to share his story and her grief.
She talks to students in driver’s education at an initiation meeting them and their parents must attend.
Smith urges parents to inspect friends’ vehicles before their child gets a ride.
“You won’t be a bad parent,” Smith said. “The kids will say, ‘Wow, your mom and dad really must care about you.’”
Before the meetings, Smith had not talked to large groups, but her message gets through.
“By her retelling her story over and over, I think that’s as brave as you can get,” explained Jerry Bowman, driver’s education instruction. “She’s also had these hardships where she lives it over and over; I think that’s a real hero.”
Smith is too humble to call herself a hero, but she does care deeply about saving young lives from senseless tragedy. And although it’s hard, she’s committed to telling Drew’s story as long as people will listen.
“If it can prevent just one more mother and father from having to go through what me and Ronald are going through, it’s worth it,” she said.
Johnston County began the mandatory parent-student driver’s education initiation in response to the number of fatal wrecks. Students also must complete an Alive at 25 course if they want to park on campus.
Officials believe it’s working and hope other school districts will follow Johnston County’s lead.