Little Rock Family Touched By Tragedy Receives National Heroes Award from EMSC

June 11, 2009 - Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Little Rock

LITTLE ROCK, AR. (June 11, 2009) – Since Peggy and Wayne Hackett of Little Rock suffered the loss of their 17-year-old daughter Hannah in a car crash in 2006, they have been determined to do everything they can to prevent other families from experiencing similar tragedy. Today the national organization Emergency Medical Services for Children (EMSC) is honoring the efforts of the couple and their son Matt with the National Heroes Family Volunteer of the Year Award.

The Hacketts have been outspoken advocates for teen driving safety, including measures that encourage kids and their families to wear safety belts. Hannah always wore her safety belt, but at the time of the crash that took her life, she had unbuckled, possibly to sit closer to her boyfriend, who also died in the wreck.

The Hacketts’ tireless efforts since Hannah’s death have been a guiding force in several policy changes that have revolutionized the way families in Arkansas think about teen driving. The Hacketts testified before the Arkansas General Assembly earlier this year, advocating the passage of legislation for primary seat belt offenses and graduated driver’s licenses (GDL).

At a legislative committee hearing this spring, Peggy Hackett reinforced that had the state passed primary seat belt and stronger GDL laws two years ago, Hannah’s voice could ring strong to endorse the actions, knowing they had saved her life. Instead, Hannah’s voice is limited to a cell phone recording her mother keeps and played for legislators. That moment gave life to a dedicated push for the new legislative package which passed during the last session.

“Hannah’s parents and her brother have turned their grief into strength and determination to increase safety for other teen drivers and their passengers,” said Mary Aitken, MD, director of the Injury Prevention Center (IPC) at Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH) professor of Pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

“Peggy and Matt have used their gifts of communication to work with the Injury Prevention Center to increase awareness on motor vehicle safety for young drivers and their passengers, while Wayne has maintained a quiet resolve to support Peggy and Matt as they give voice to Hannah.”

A public service announcement featuring an impromptu video Hannah recorded of herself singing just weeks before her death aired on local channels, reaching teens across the state. The PSA, which received a special judge’s award from the Arkansas ADDY Awards, can be found at on “Current Program” and then on the link for “14 years and older.” The video is listed as “Nashville Dream PSA” in the middle of the page.

The Hacketts are on-hand today to receive the award in Alexandria, Virginia. Since 1998, Emergency Medical Services for Children has honored individuals who have displayed a tremendous commitment to children’s emergency health issues with National Hero Awards. The annual honors “reward outstanding achievement in emergency medical services for children and … encourage continued excellence in the field.”