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Mother’s Fight To Save Lives Pays Off, U.S. 380 To Be Widened

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DENTON (CBSDFW.COM) – Eva Czerniak lost her 17-year-old daughter in a crash along U.S. Highway 380 in Denton County last November.

Now, after months of her campaigning to improve the road, the state has found the money to widen Highway 380 from the Wise County line to Interstate 35 in Denton.

“I started out by being mad,” Czerniak said. “The girls tried to avoid this accident, but there was nowhere for them to go.”

Samantha Rogers, Czerniak’s daughter, and 15-year-old friend Delaynee Mansil died when a large truck crossed the lane and slammed into their vehicle head-on.

Czerniak said she turned her anger into action. With family and friends, the mother wrote 300 letters and obtained 4,500 signatures to petition the state to make U.S. Highway 380 safer for drivers.

“This is one of the last things I can do for my daughter,” Czerniak said.

She did her research: There were nearly 90 accidents along that stretch between January 2009 and January 2011, Czerniak said.

“Had that road been wider, there would have been many more options for her,” she said.

Reports show five deadly accidents during that same time period along that stretch. Now, after Czerniak’s efforts, the Texas Department of Transportation and regional transportation planners have just announced they’ll spend more than $70 million to widen parts of the highway that are still two lanes to four lanes.

“It won’t bring the girls back,” Czerniak said. “But we could keep somebody else from going through this. Maybe it’ll save more lives. A lot more lives.”

Her daughter was a straight-A student and star basketball player at Alvord High School. She would have graduated this year.

At a ceremony Friday, the school handed Samantha’s diploma to her parents.

“There’s no doubt in my mind she would have walked across that stage, Czerniak said.

TxDOT said construction will begin on the project by Thanksgiving and should take two years to complete.

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