Denzel Steward was a high school junior and star football player in Louisville, Kentucky when, on the night of June 21, 2009, a high speed crash ended his life. His number 32 jersey was retired and a memorial picture of him hangs on the press box at Jeffersontown High School. Denzel’s family struggled with grief and loss until a discovery in his belongings helped turn struggle into purpose.
While going through Denzel’s belongings, a relative found a speeding ticket in a shoebox from a month before the accident. He had been cited for traveling at over 100 mph on a stretch of road with a 55 mph speed limit. It had been kept secret from his parents.
Discovering the citation, Shawn and Orson Steward, mother and father of Denzel, decided to help prevent accidents like this in the future. The Stewards say he would not have been allowed to drive after that ticket for quite some time, had they known about it, and thus he would not have been on that road, at those speeds, on that night. So began their five-year crusade to see a new law passed.
House bill 90, known as The Denzel Steward Act, was signed into effect by Governor Steve Beshear and became the culmination of the Steward’s efforts. In accordance with the Act, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will now be forwarding any traffic citation received by a minor to the offender’s parents or legal guardians.
While the Steward’s know nothing can lessen the loss they feel, they hope the Denzel Steward Act will help to protect other children and prevent other families from having to suffer from similar tragedies.