SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio native returned to Texas this week to raise awareness about the cause of her daughter’s death -- street racing.
“What happened to her, I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen to anybody, and I’ll make sure that I will do everything that I can to spare a parent from losing a child,” said Lili Trujillo Puckett, the founder of Street Racing Kills.
Her daughter, Valentina D’Assandro, was killed when the man who was giving her a ride home crashed during a street race in California.
“Valentina was a happy teenager. Valentina loved, you know, Cheetos and cream cheese and Jamba Juice,” her mother said. “Valentina loved going to parties with her girlfriends.”
Trujillo Puckett founded Street Racing Kills soon after her daughter’s death.
The group visits schools and works with law enforcement to reach young people, either before they start street racing or after they’re caught.
“When they come to my program, I always tell them how blessed they are. They’re blessed to be there,” she said. “They’re blessed because nothing happened. Obviously, they didn’t kill anyone, and they’re not hurt themselves. So I told them, it’s a blessing. You’re only here for an hour and a half with me, and that’s all you need for us just to talk to you about the consequences and the things that can happen.”
Trujillo Puckett visited Houston and Dallas this week for events with law enforcement and AAA Texas. The issue of street racing took on new urgency during the pandemic, with the open roads an invitation for speeders.
The number of speed related crashes in Texas was up by 15% in 2020 over 2019.
“They’re on track, unfortunately, to be another deadly and dangerous year. Too early to speculate if they’ll be similar to 2020 numbers,” said Joshua Zuber, a spokesman for AAA Texas. “But certainly, we’re still trending in the wrong direction.”
New state laws strengthening penalties on street racing went into effect on Sept. 1, increasing the crime from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor. A driver’s vehicle can also be confiscated if it is determined the driver is a repeat offender, intoxicated or causes injury or death.
In 2020, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers issued 451 citations and warnings for violations related to street racing.
AAA Texas advises that parents also keep an eye on their teens’ driving habits and any sudden purchases of performance-enhancing auto parts.
“You may want to start asking questions like, ‘Where are you driving? What are these parts for?’” Zuber said. “Because, really, a lot of these parts are meant to make the vehicles faster and louder to try to attract potentially some illegal street racing activity.”
Trujillo Puckett hopes that by offering her programs virtually and in-person, fewer young people will street race and more lives will be saved.
“If you want us to talk to your child, we have mentors (as well as I am a mentor) to talk with them one-on-one if you need us,” she said. “So just reach out to us, then we will be there. We don’t want any parents to lose a child.”
Street Racing Kills can be reached at email@example.com or (310) 303-0164.
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