The mother of a teenager who died in a crash on Interstate 380 in eastern Iowa is pushing for tougher laws and punishments for teen drivers involved in crashes, even if the teen driver isn’t directly at fault. Marie McGee-Benedict says she knows nothing will bring her daughter back, but she fears for the other people and teenagers on the road. Sixteen-year-old Alyssa Benedict of Tiffin was killed this past September when the van she was in crashed near the Iowa River.

“I miss her smile and the light that comes off her,” Marie said. “She literally was like a burst of sunshine.” The Iowa State Patrol says a 15-year-old girl who was driving the van lost control when a tire failed. The girl only had only a learner’s permit at the time, but all charges against her were eventually dropped. Marie says instead of falling into a depression, she decided to turn her sadness into determination.

“What do you do? Sit in bed all day and cry? Become a hermit? That’s not me. I’m not that type of person,” McGee-Benedict said. “For me, this is kind of my grieving process because I don’t want other families to feel like I did.” McGee-Benedict recently started an online petition to the U.S. government asking lawmakers to pass tougher laws for teenage drivers.

“There just needs to be heftier consequences for their choice to get behind the wheel and the parent’s choice to condone it,” she said. Changing state and federal laws can require years of work.

“I won’t stop until something is done. If it takes me until the day I die, something will be done,” McGee-Benedict said. Alyssa attended Clear-Creek Amana High School. McGee-Benedict wants everyone to know that her daughter donated her organs and helped many other people when she died.

See the petition here.

By Mark Geary, KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids