On August 17, 2012, Justin Griffin was riding his bicycle, a 15thbirthday present from his mom, down a road in his hometown of Grove City, Penn.
The same bicycle his mom, Susan Griffin-Ray, gave to him three days earlier for that same birthday. At 6’3” and 160 lbs, Justin Griffin was easy to spot on foot. However, someone driving a pick-up truck didn’t see him on the same road the morning of August 17.
The All-Star baseball pitcher, MVP quarterback, church youth-group member and mentor was struck by the motorist and passed away from injuries in the emergency room of Grove City Medical Center that morning.
Justin Griffin was not wearing a helmet.
Now, Justin’s family is utilizing their loss to gain bicycle safety awareness for everyone and Mike Wallace and the No. 01 G&K Services Chevrolet team of JD Motorsports w/Gary Keller is helping. They will carry a decal on their car at Chicagoland Speedway to help Griffin-Ray promote bicycle safety awareness. Justin’s father, Matthew Griffin and his wife Lisa, are also pleased with the recognition being given this weekend.
“Justin lived his life to the fullest every day,” Griffin-Ray said. “He was energetic, approachable, well-mannered and very giving. I have spent a lot of time since his death wondering why he was taken from us. I’ve also spent a lot of time wondering what could have been done differently, and what can now be done, to help avoid this happening to other bicycle riders with the same devastating outcome.
“In speaking with many teenagers, I found they don’t wear helmets because ‘it doesn’t look cool’ and there are no laws saying they have to wear one. I then ask them how cool they think they’d be lying in a casket with their parents, family and loved ones crying over them being gone?”
Griffin-Ray’s research has found there are NO Federal laws requiring the use of helmets by bicycle riders. There are only 22 states that require helmets for bicycle riders; some of those state the helmets have to be worn only until the age of 18. Her homestate of Pennsylvania requires helmets to be worn for riders ages 12 and under. In regards to the local regions, only 201 across the USA require helmets while riding bicycles.
“The helmet laws are not the only issue at hand,” Griffin-Ray said. “Kids ride their bikes through town without paying attention, pedaling thru stop signs, weaving on and off sidewalks, not looking when turning onto another road and seemingly completely unaware of their surroundings. I believe they feel that since they are on a bike, the car coming or the truck backing up will see them and they just continue riding on.
“Perhaps we need to spend some time educating these kids that riding a bicycle is similar to driving a car. You need to constantly be aware of your surroundings, traffic, pedestrians, stop signs, intersections and red/green lights.”
Tony Priscaro, VP of Sales for JD Motorsports, hails from the Grove City area and spearheaded the initiative to help the Griffin-Ray family in their cause to raise awareness. Both she and her husband, Brian Ray, will be in attendance for Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland.
“Having a team like JD Motorsports and driver Mike Wallace involved with raising awareness like this is beyond words,” Griffin-Ray said. “I was shocked when Tony called and said they wanted to help. Justin was a huge NASCAR fan and he would love the fact Mike’s car is carrying his decal to help take bicycle safety awareness to a national level.
“Bicycle safety is something the whole country needs to be aware of for bicycle riders. Take it from a mother who lost her only son less than a month ago, we need help in creating more awareness for bicycle safety for riders of all ages.”
JD Motorsports PR