Metro Detroit family pushes for legislation in honor of son killed by distracted driver

In 2016, Mitchel Keifer died after he was struck by a distracted driver. His family decided they couldn’t let the tragic event destroy their lives.

LANSING, Mich. – Every day, 10 people die in the United States due to distracted driving.

Five years ago, Mitchel Kiefer died after he was struck by a distracted driver. His family decided they couldn’t let the tragic event destroy their lives.

The family of Mitchel Kiefer said he lived more life in his 18 years than most people do in a lifetime. His love of family, hockey and the fact that so many people saw him as their best friend shows the impact he had on so many.

Mitchel was struck by a distracted driver and pushed into oncoming traffic, where he was struck by another vehicle. Even in death, he is still impacting the lives of many.

Students from around the country have pledged to not drive distracted. The social media campaign grows continually with new clips posted on the Kiefer Foundation’s Instagram page.

“You could just scroll through and see all these young people stating why they don’t drive distracted,” said Lexi Kiefer. “And I think that was very impactful.”

Alexa and Julianna Kiefer’s younger sisters grew up watching their father take Mitchel’s story and share it by forming the Kiefer Foundation. The family pushed for changes in law and spreading awareness about the dangers of distracted driving.

“I think it’s something that a lot of people forget about, which is why we want to make a lot of merchandise, and we do the wristbands and stuff,” Julianna Kiefer said. “Because we think that if you’re maybe wearing a wristband, and you go to reach for your phone while you’re driving, you’ll see the wristband, you’ll be like, ‘Oh my God, why am I doing this?’”

It’s been difficult to gather groups together during the COVID pandemic, but that hasn’t stopped them from sharing their message to fraternities and sororities at Michigan State University about the dangers of distracted driving.

“They want to help change the world in his memory, just as he wanted to change the world,” Steve Kiefer said.

Steve Kiefer is proud of his daughter’s work to honor their brother, as well as save lives.

“They’re just so much better with social media,” Steve Kiefer said. “They’re able to get the message out in a very efficient manner.”

The family has an ongoing mission to change the law, pushing for a hands-free Michigan for drivers.

“Every state that’s put these laws in place has seen a significant reduction in crashes, fatalities, and insurance claims,” Steve Kiefer said. “I mean, it’s good all around.”

The Kiefer family took a tragedy and didn’t allow it to destroy them, and they’re working hard to make sure it won’t destroy any other family.

The family went to Lansing to speak with Michigan lawmakers to shed light on the devastation that distracted driving can cause and push for hands-free legislation in the state. The next stop in the process is the Judiciary Committee vote. That could happen by the end of April, followed by a House floor vote.

About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter.

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.