Texting and Driving: Distracted driving kills a Gardendale teen - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Don't Text and Drive: Gardendale couple shares tragic story of son's death in distracted driving accident

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Lendard Rutledge, of Gardendale, shares his tragic story of losing his 19-year-old son, Cody, to a distracted driving accident. (abc3340.com) Lendard Rutledge, of Gardendale, shares his tragic story of losing his 19-year-old son, Cody, to a distracted driving accident. (abc3340.com)
GARDENDALE - AL -

Every family members' worst nightmare is losing a loved one, especially when their death could have been prevented.

"Father's Day won't ever be the same for me," said Lenard Rutledge.

For Rutledge, the special day for dads everywhere will never have the same meaning after losing his son unexpectedly to a car accident in 2011.  It was back on that day in 2011, he and his family were in the middle of planning a funeral for his son.

"I told him I loved him and he said he loved me and that was it," said Rutledge.

Known as "Ponch" by those close to him, Cody Rutledge was your typical, happy-go-lucky college student before his life was cut short by tragedy at the age of 19.

"He was going to [Wallace State Community College], just enjoying it, just really enjoying life," Rutledge said.

"I just see a lot of joy here," said Cody's mother, Sharon Rutledge. " I see a lot of promise in the future. I see two innocent kids with their life in front of them, and now he's not here."

Cody's life is now a memory for his family following his fatal accident, which was caused when he attempted to answer a phone call while driving in Gardendale.

"Someone called him, he grabbed the phone and answered it and did not see the light," Cody's father said. "He went through the intersection and another car hit him. Cody's car flipped several times and he was dead at the scene."

Sharon was just around the corner from that scene when she got the horrific news, which she described as a never-ending nightmare.

"I just screamed," she said.

For a grieving mother and father, coping with the loss of their son to an accident that could have been avoided has been agonizing and torturous.

"As a parent you want to protect them. You want to take care of them and then you can't," Cody's father said.

"A split second was all it took for him to be breathing one minute and not breathing the next," Cody's mother said.

Cody's death now serves as a constant reminder for his parents of how dangerous and distracting cell phones can be while driving, and they hope their experience of heartache and loss will be a life-saving lesson for others.

"Just answering that phone, looking away for that brief second was enough to take his life," said Sharon Rutledge. "It can happen to anybody, kids, an adult, anybody. Everybody needs to be aware and put their phone down in the car."

Sharon Rutledge said, "It didn't have to happen."

Click here to learn more about ABC 33/40's Dont' Text and Drive Campaign and sign the pledge!

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