Family hopes to prevent 'no cop, no stop' trend after teen dies in vehicle crash
Lesley Bricker, 16, failed to stop at an intersection drove into the path of a pickup truck, who was unable to avoid the crash
By Nick Draper
ROODHOUSE, Ill. — Words and actions turned deadly along a rural Greene County road.
Sixteen-year-old Lesley Bricker of White Hall was enjoying the waning days of summer riding with friends on County Road 1550E. It was nearing 6 p.m. that July 25 evening when their mid-sized silver sedan reached the intersection of Roodhouse Blacktop.
There, members of Lesley’s family believe, came those words that are scattered across the internet: “No cop, no stop.”
The car Lesley was driving went into the intersection and into the path of a pickup truck being driven by Nicholas Burton, 35, of Manchester. Police said Burton was unable to avoid the accident.
Two teens in Lesley’s car had to be flown to a Springfield hospital and another was taken by ambulance.
Lesley was wearing a seat belt, but her injuries were too severe. She died at the scene, along with the North Greene High School student’s aspirations or the future.
Over four little words.
The shock of the crash turned to questions for family members. The intersection was not known as a problem for accidents, after all.
Lesley’s cousin, Lacy Buchanan, said that then the messages started arriving.
There were those words: No cop, no stop.
It gets its name from the act of running stop signs in rural areas when there are no police around and no apparent other traffic.
Places like YouTube, Vine and Instagram reference the “game.” Videos show teenagers and young adults ignoring stop signs and laughing as they go through intersections.
“We started to get messages from parents and we even got a couple of Snapchat videos of kids playing the game,” Buchanan said. “We believe she saw the stop sign and — not knowing someone was there — she intentionally blew the stop sign without attempting to stop.”
When Lesley was laid to rest Aug. 1, they warned other teens and parents who attended about the tragic realities of such actions.
In addition to asking that those wishing to leave memorials in Lesley’s name be sent to PAWS Animal Welfare Society in Jacksonville, family members asked others to help share the message about the dangers of “no cop, no stop.”
They have also harnessed the power of social media, establishing the movement #Lesleyscause to spread the word.
Hundreds have picked up on the hash-tag and many have shared an image posted by the family that shows Lesley, the wreckage of the car, the striking image of her coffin before it was lowered into the ground and a note serving as a warning to others.
The message is heart-breaking:
“Lesley will never go to prom, she won’t graduate high school or go to college. She won’t meet her soulmate, get married or hold a baby in her arms. Her journey is over because of four words. … We know we are not our mistakes and, aside from faith in God’s will, we all have to be conscious and responsible and aware of the impact of our decisions. If you want to honor Lesley, take an oath today to redefine those four words.”
“Make better choices and smart decisions,” their message continues. “Be the example. Obey the traffic laws. Save an animal. Love each other. We love you, Lesley. You will forever be in our hearts.”
Although police could not confirm that “no cop, no stop” was involved in Lesley’s accident, several departments said they had heard mention of the trend.
Greene County Sheriff Rob McMillen said it was the first time he heard about such activity being in the area.
“I think it’s a very dangerous decision to play a game like that,” he said. “It’s very, very likely that you’re going to be involved in some sort of accident, such as the one Ms. Bricker was involved in. Teens don’t think of the consequences of playing a game like that or other reckless driving habits that they develop.
“Unfortunately, sometimes it will be too late for them to change their ways,” McMillen said.
Jacksonville Police Deputy Chief Chad Moore said he has not heard of the “game” making its way to Jacksonville — and hopes it doesn’t because of the risks it poses not just to drivers but to others on the road.
“Let’s say you’re playing ‘no cop, no stop’ and you blow through [a stop sign] and don’t see a car coming,” Moore said. “You hit that car and cause a death. If it’s proven you were playing this game and it wasn’t accidental, obviously you could be charged with reckless or vehicular homicide if you kill somebody in the other vehicle.”
Rural intersections are particularly dangerous in Illinois. Data from the Illinois Department of Transportation show that from 2010 to 2014, 20 percent of intersection-related fatalities and serious injuries occurred in rural areas. Of those fatalities and injuries, 52 percent were at an intersection with a stop sign or flashing lights.
There were 236 fatalities and 5,279 serious injuries at such intersections in that time, which is the most recent for which statistics are available.
Twenty-eight percent of the injuries and deaths were caused by people disregarding stop signs.
Illinois Secretary of State spokesman Dave Drucker commended Lesley’s family for coming forth and bringing the dangerous activity to light.
“I want to commend the family for bringing this to the public’s attention,” Drucker said. “Anytime someone doesn’t follow the rules of the road, you’re putting yourself and other at risk.”
North Greene schools Superintendent Mike Scott said he plans to address the dangers with students as the year progresses.
Mostly, he wants them to understand this is “not a game, it’s a reality.”
Lesley would have been a junior this year at North Greene High School. She was well-known in the White Hall area and had been baby-sitting for several years. She loved animals and could not resist helping “anything from hedgehogs to ducks,” her family said.
Like most teenagers, she was a “queen” of taking selfies and was on her phone almost constantly.
And, like most teenagers, she made a mistake, her family said.
Grandmother Yvonne Sprague, who was Lesley’s guardian for more than 10 years, said she hopes that mistake can save the lives of others.
“Running stop signs, running red lights, not obeying traffic laws, these can be the results,” she said. “Every kid that drives thinks that it’s not going to happen to [them]. We want to get the word out. … Maybe if young kids are made to be aware of what those four words can do, they’ll drive more carefully.”
Copyright 2017 Jacksonville Journal-Courier