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Stay Alert – Stay Alive – A Professional & Personal Perspective On Driving

Posted on 20 November 2012 by Monica Zech


In August of 2001, Monica zech made the biggest and most rewarding career change of her life!  She chose to leave a 30-year career in broadcasting to become a Public Information Officer and Safety Educator for a fire department in a large City in San Diego County.  In July of 2005, Monica was then promoted to become the Public Information Officer for the entire city and still provide safety education on behalf of the police & fire departments.  She also writes articles on safety and appears on local television news segments giving valuable safety advice.  Monica most enjoys speaking to groups and schools about safety, especially “driving” safety.  She speaks on behalf of all those injured and killed in preventable collisions.  It‘s obvious to her audiences that “safety/injury prevention” is Monica’s passion!  Her lecture is called “Stay Alert – Stay Alive!”

Monica has been involved in broadcasting for more than thirty-five years. Her broadcasting career highlights; in 1971, at the age of 16, she became the first female broadcast intern at KGTV, Ch. 10, from Crawford High School.  She went on to work for a variety of radio stations as a news reporter and anchor. In January of 1984 she became San Diego’s first female airborne traffic reporter, and soon after – San Diego’s first television traffic reporter for both the NBC and ABC local affiliates and heard on some ten radio stations.   Since 1984 Monica has been delivering lectures on driving safety throughout San Diego, Los Angeles and Riverside Counties.  Since 1984 to the present, she has received numerous news, safety and community service awards. (See her awards section)  Although Monica enjoyed her work as a reporter, she most enjoyed her research and lectures in the community on traffic safety.  She wanted to reduce the injury and death she was seeing as a traffic reporter.  Since the beginning, she has delivered these lectures on her own time, after work, evenings and weekends – using all her vacation and sick leave hours to deliver her safety message.  By representing an EMS agency, she is now able provide safety education almost full-time career.  But, due to her passion for safety – she still uses her off hours and vacation hours to lecture outside the city. In the last few years, requests for her life saving talks have come from across the United States.

It was during her first year as a traffic reporter in 1984, while conducting research and working with local emergency agencies, trauma room doctors and various transportation and safety organizations, that Monica saw the “crucial” need to add safety education advice to her traffic reports – and to lecture on traffic safety in the community.

After eight years of safety lecturing, Monica’s work in traffic safety took on an even deeper meaning, when on June 5th, 1992; her own father was struck and killed by a DUI driver.  On that Friday evening, just after 6:00 p.m., Monica’s father was crossing at the corner of El Cajon Boulevard at Jessie Avenue in La Mesa. The investigation showed a vehicle stopped to allow her father to cross. As he started to cross, it was the next approaching vehicle, driven by a 23-year-old DUI driver, that began go around and pass the stopped vehicle. In court testimony, the DUI driver claimed he saw a man crossing the street but thought this man would stop walking to allow him to continue to drive through. But Monica’s father was already in that second lane and the DUI driver, who should have stopped, struck and killed Monica’s 63 year-old father.  It was soon found that this 23-year-old driver had a blood alcohol level of .16, twice over the legal limit and he was driving on a suspended license.  It was the DUI driver’s 4th DUI arrest and it  took her father to stop him – but it also took his life to do it.  In the picture below is the vehicle that struck and killed Monica’s father. The damage to the front windshield was caused by her father’s head striking the windshield, an indentation to the left front end of the vehicle was where his upper body struck. His body was then thrown some twenty feet into the air coming down head first into the center median across the street crushing his skull and causing his fatal injuries.

Again, it was the driver’s fourth DUI arrest. Demonstrating a continued lack of respect for the law.  This DUI driver never bothered to go to court to answer for his last two DUI arrests, so there were two misdemeanor arrest warrants pending when he struck Monica’s father. From the first DUI, his license had been suspended and he was driving without driver’s insurance coverage.  Sadly, despite this DUI driver’s previous DUI record, he was sentenced to a mere four years in prison. After serving hardly a year and a half of his sentence he was released for good behavior. (But was later thrown back in jail on yet another drug charge a short time later.) But, Monica’s father is still gone and very much missed by Monica and her family. His death has become a part of Monica’s lectures on the subject of DUI.  Although it’s been 20 years since his death, talking about her father is sometimes painful. But it’s important to Monica to take that pain and educate her audiences on how “precious” life is.  She also makes it very clear – she speaks in memory of all those killed and injured in preventable traffic collisions every day.

But, lightning can strike a family twice! On February 10th, 2005, just before 9 p.m., Monica’s then 24 year-old daughter was struck broadside by a 17-year-old female, unlicensed, DUI driver!  Thanks to her daughter’s alertness and quick actions behind the wheel, she was able to avoid a direct side impact to her driver’s door. The young lady did strike the front end of her car then fled the scene – only to be apprehended a couple blocks away.

Victoria did suffer some minor injuries to her neck and back, and her vehicle sustained about $4,000 in damages. But, Monica is very thankful her daughter was able to avoid fatal injuries.  A year later she was able to see her daughter graduate from paramedic school in June of 2006, and marry a month later. Monica feels very blessed to have seen her daughter achieve two important dreams – to become a paramedic and to marry.

Sadly, Monica meets many parents are not so fortunate to see their children achieve their dreams.  Research shows many drivers, with suspended licenses from a DUI, continue to drive, often repeating the same driving behavior. That’s why it’s crucial we are always 100% alert behind the wheel and as a pedestrian.  Stats also show 40% of motorists drive without insurance, so make sure you have good “un-insured” motorist protection and under-insured motorist coverage on your driver’s insurance policy.

 As a driver, Monica herself has been a victim several times – hit by distracted drivers and colliding with a STOP sign runner.   In the first incident, in 1996, she was struck by a motorist who was busy talking on his cell phone and looking at paperwork across his steering wheel as he flew into a parking lot in Escondido.  Monica was in that parking lot, and seeing a flash of red turned to see a large red pick-up truck heading straight toward her driver’s door, she quickly hit the gas speeding forward and the struck her back door area – thus she avoided certain death.   Then on August 29th, 2003, Monica was on her way to a CHP office in El Cajon when a motorist ran the STOP sign at the bottom of the ramp from west 8 to East Main Street.  The driver ran the STOP by two car lengths and she had failed to look left pulling into directly into Monica’s right of way.  Monica was able to slam on her brakes, leaving 22 feet of skid marks, striking the woman’s back door.

(Monica’s vehicle following the collision)

 Monica’s quick reaction saved that driver’s life, but Monica suffered serious injuries and  was transported to a local hospital.

It was soon found, due to her injuries, Monica would require neck surgery.  A few months later, just before Christmas eve, she had neck surgery that repaired the C-5 & C-6 area of her neck.

Two surgeons said Monica should have been paralyzed by this crash.   In 2010, she had knee surgery from injuries suffered from this crash.  These real-life experiences and those she sees in her work with police and fire, have added even more impact to her talks.

Buckle-up and stay alert to stay alive!

*For a professional and personal look at what it takes to be a “safe” driver for your school, group, military group or company conference please contact Monica Zech at (619) 219-9030, or email her at






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Conference Planners, Safety Coordinators – References Regarding My Safety Talks

Posted on 07 March 2012 by Monica Zech

Dear Conference Planners, Safety Managers, and Safety Coordinators, and Teachers:

If you are interested in making a request for me to make a presentation to your Company Conference, Company Safety Briefing, to your group or school meeting, class or assembly, and would like references to contact –  I have listed several below.

These are people I have  delivered talks for here in the County.  I’ve listed their email and/or phone contact information:

As follows:

Professor Sheila Mitra-Sarkar:  I worked with Ms. Sarkar at San Diego State University conducting research on road rage, and speaking on behalf of NETS (Network of Employers on Traffic Safety):

  • Monica Zech is a dedicated safety advocate who is passionate about traffic safety.  She was one of our distinguished speakers who would visit workplaces and talk about the importance of traffic safety. Her talks were engaging but eye-opening.  I always received positive feedback after her talks. Case in point, a non-profit that serves underserved youth had their crashes go down after her talks. She has given safety talks at Camp Pendleton, MCAS Miramar and to many private and public agencies. I would strongly recommend Monica Zech as a speaker to any employer who is willing to spend an hour every month on safety talks. It does make a difference.                                                           Sheila Mitra-Sarkar, PhD –                                                                                                                                                Contact through LinkedIn:


Professor Gerald Graf  – he is a professor for San Diego State University and National University in San Diego, California.  I’ve spoken to his classes for 15 years or more.  He also hosted a TV Cable show and a radio show in which I was a frequent guest expert on safety issues, and back-up host.

Mr. Gerald Graf –

Office – (760)  918-9303


Ms. Polly Rose is the Community Education Coordinator, Student Health Services at Mesa College in San Diego.  For the past few years I have been a keynote speaker for her Safe Driving & DUI Awareness days at their Mesa College Campus, most recent was 10/27/10.

Ms. Polly

Office – (619) 388-2762


Mr. Bart Schwarz is a Driver Education teacher at Valley Center High School, and Palomar College in San Diego County.  I have been speaking to his driver education classes each year for about 20 plus years.

Mr. Bart Schwarz –


Ms. Lisa Augello is a probation officer in San Diego County, and also teaches Traffic School for teens.  I have been speaking to her classes for about ten plus years.

Ms. Lisa Augello Duchow


Mr. Andy Crossland is the Safety Compliance Official for a major hotel group, and he is a member of several safety organizations in San Diego.  I’ve delivered safety lectures to his groups for the past 12 to 15 years.

Mr. Andy


*Visit my Lecture Feedback page on this website – I have posted some recent comments below.


My most recent feedback/comments:

Since 1984 I have spoken to thousands of people, of all ages, on injury prevention, my favorite topic & expertise being  driving safety.  It’s great to hear and see the feedback, especially if my talks have made a difference.  Below are some of the wonderful comments I’ve received through the years to date.

On January 4, 2016 I spoke at a Safety Stand Down at North Island.  Some of my presentations, like this one, are arranged through MADD.  I was forwarded the email below sent to MADD San Diego following my talk:

Dear MADD,

Could you send me an address where we can send Monica Zech a thank you letter for presenting at our Safety Stand Down?

By the way, she delivered the best Traffic Safety/MADD brief I have ever seen!!  It was outstanding!!

Thanks again,

J. Colwell CIV HSC-3, N4

U.S. Navy – North Island

(Thank you Jim!  Bless you for your comments!  As always, I am VERY honored to speak to the military! – Monica)

Below a letter from the Commander of this same lecture:

Ms. Zech

Please accept my sincere appreciation for your support of our squadron’s Safety Stand-Down on January 4, 2016.  Stand-Downs provide an opportunity to reflect on a wide variety of safety issues including Traffic Safety Precautions.  Your presentation to over 640 individuals provided an opportunity for our sailor’s to reflect on the seriousness of driving safety and the impact of unlawful driving choices.  Your training was very effective and will assist them with their decisions.  Thank you again for taking time out of your busy schedule to present a very constructive presentation.

S.T. Bailey                                                                                                                                                                                       Commander, U.S. Navy                                                                                                                                                             Commanding Officer, HSC-3


Below is a very nice letter I received following my driving safety presentation at a Naval Base in Ventura on December 18, 2015 – a special thank you to Safety Officer Ms. Bradford for inviting me to speak at their base:

Dear Ms. Zech,

Subj: Letter of Appreciation

It is with great pleasure that I express my sincere appreciation for your enthusiastic efforts during the Naval Base Ventura County’s (NBVC) Holiday Safety Stand Down on 18 December 2015.

Your outstanding contributions to the United States Navy in utilizing your personal and professional experiences to educate and mentor our community onboard NBVC concerning “Drunk and Distracted Driving” were greatly appreciated.

Your energetic performance heightened the learning experience and positively enriched the subject matter to all Sailors.  I am truly thankful for your exceptional support provided to the NBVC team and extend you a hearty “Bravo Zulu” for a job well done!


C.D. Janke                                                                                                                                                                                              Captain, U.S. Navy                                                                                                                                                                                 Commanding Officer

(*Thank you Commander!  As always it’s an honor and pleasure to speak to our Military!)


Following my presentation at the Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Base off Harbor Drive & Nimitz to Navy personnel on November 24, 2015:


I just wanted to thank you again for taking the time to talk to my command. I’ve heard overwhelmingly positive feedback about the talk from my people.  It made the issue so real to them and they appreciated that.  Thank you for what  you do, and if we can help you out in the future please let us know.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Very Respectfully,

LT Amy Hunt


Following my presentation to Sage Creek High School Students and their parents on October 22, 2015. 

Hi Monica!

Thank you for being such an awesome speaker!  I loved the event and so glad it was well attended.

Thanks again!

My Best,

Mary Ellen Reulein

Sage Creek High School, Carlsbad Ca.


Following my presentation at North Island to the Wolf Pack on August 17, 2015:

Mrs. Zech,

Thank you for taking time out of your day to come speak to the Wolfpack on Monday. Your presentation was extremely impactful and provided quality education to our sailors. We greatly appreciate your effort in making our stand down a success!

Thanks again,

V/r, LTJG Andy “Pags” Pagliarulo, HSM-75 Ground Safety Officer


Following my safe driving talk assembly on the dangers of distracted driving to students at Valhalla High School on March 23, 2015

Thank you so much for speaking at Valhalla. I heard so many positive things from adults and students about your talk, thanks for helping us with our mission to change driving behavior! Hope to have you back.

J. Owens, ASB/Activities Advisor


Following a Military Talk at a Safety Stand-Down at Lemoore Naval Station near Fresno on March 20, 2015


Thank you again for taking your whole day for us.  Your presentation was the most impactful I have seen in my 12 years!  Have a safe flight home.

Commanding Officer, Safety Officer, A. Toll


“Thank you, Monica Zech, Safety Educator”

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Aggressive Driving – Research & A Dedication

Posted on 31 January 2011 by Ron Cook

Durham Sprague

*In my safe driving lectures I have a special dedication when addressing the subject of “aggressive driving”…I dedicate this portion of my talk to the memory of someone very special who was killed by an aggressive driver on September 1, 2000, his name is “Mr. Durham Sprague”. (Seated in the center above)  He was a retired Carlsbad Firefighter, who raised 4 children, 3 sons and a wonderful daughter, a newspaper/magazine journalist and one of my best friends – Jeannie!  (She’s seated on the far left in the picture above.)

Mr. Sprague was killed on northbound 805 in San Diego, California, near Murray Ridge as he attempted to merge into lanes.  An aggressive-reckless driver, speeding and weaving through traffic, struck Mr. Sprague’s vehicle causing him to roll off the freeway.  The driver who struck and killed Mr. Sprague had a history of reckless driving.

Sadly, aggressive driving kills and injures motorists everyday on our roadways.  This type of driving often leads to the “road rage” factor.   My safety lectures addresses “aggressive driving” and how to curb “road rage.”   I talk about how to deal with stress & road rage, either your own rage or that of other drivers.  My lectures will open your eyes to the dangers and how you can reduce these dangers on our roadways.  First, “we” have “NO” control over other drives, but we do have control of our “own actions.”  In the 1990’s I was honored to assist with research on road rage with San Diego State University and the National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration (NHTSA).

In my talks I provide my audience with  a “professional and personal” look at what it takes to increase your survival on our streets and highways!  I provide tips on how to avoid making the same mistakes others have made that caused their collision.  My goal is to make you more aware of these problems that surround us and to reduce the “risk factors” of having a collision.

These talks have been in high demand for driver education/training courses, schools (all levels), traffic schools, Life Skills Classes, Parenting classes, military safety stand downs and for company safety conferences and briefings.  I do utilize some stats in my talks, but I put faces with those stats.  Most are local faces, including yours truly.   But keep in mind – I do not “sugar coat” the issues since my goal is to save lives!  (But of course, when speaking to young teens and young children I am very careful.)

If you’d like me to speak to your group please email your request to:  monicazech@ – or go to the contact section of this website.

Be Safe! 

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What If You Killed Your Best Friend Driving Under The Influence?

Posted on 25 September 2008 by Monica Zech

Visit this young man’s website to hear his story

Comments (1)


Posted on 05 April 2007 by Monica Zech

Educators, concerned family and friends – I highly recommend the following program for driver education classes, traffic schools or if you’re concerned about someone you know that drinks alcoholic beverages and then drives. To fully understand the dangers of this practice attend one of these meetings. – Monica Zech

MADD Victim Impact Panels – What Are They?:

Mothers Against Drunk Driving believes that drunk drivers and potential impaired drivers need to hear what happens to the victims in impaired driving crashes. The Victim Impact Panel is a tool for accomplishing this goal.

MADD chapters select a panel of three or four victims to speak briefly about the impaired driving collisions in which they were injured or in which a loved one was killed, and how those crashes have impacted their personal lives.

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The Real-Life Dangers of Texting and Driving!

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