In Memoriam

Janet Brooking

Janet Brooking

The traffic safety community has lost an advocate, leader, partner, and friend.

DRIVE SMART Virginia Executive Director Janet Brooking passed away November 13, 2023, after a courageous fight with cancer. Janet led the traffic safety nonprofit for nearly 20 years.

During her tenure, DRIVE SMART Virginia pioneered distracted driving awareness, helping establish an annual Distracted Driving Awareness Month in Virginia.

Janet tirelessly advocated for Virginia’s primary handheld phone ban which was passed by the General Assembly in 2020. Under her leadership, DRIVE SMART Virginia hosted 10 annual summits on distracted driving across the Commonwealth. The nonprofit group designed and implemented an innovative interactive teen driving program, educating tens of thousands of high school students about the dangers of distracted driving. DRIVE SMART Virginia also launched the Virginia Partners for Safe Driving, garnering a commitment from more than 250 diverse organizations, companies, and agencies to promote traffic safety awareness.

A testament to her collaborative spirit, Janet played a pivotal role in the creation of the National Distracted Driving Coalition, advocating for innovative and collaborative approaches to foster a traffic safety culture of attentive drivers. Her ability to engage diverse stakeholders—communities, law enforcement, public sector, researchers, private businesses, educators, advocates, military, sports organizations, survivors—underscored her dedication to the broader cause.

As one of Janet’s collaborators recently shared, “She made me feel stronger, more capable and able to contribute to something bigger than myself.”

In honoring Janet’s legacy, we ask everyone to drive safer, and we call upon those dedicated to traffic safety to redouble their efforts. Her shared vision was one of zero deaths on our roadways, with no more lives lost to preventable crashes.

Let us unite in achieving this mission in her memory.

Leave a tribute or memory in the reply field below.

Janet’s obituary and funeral details may be found here:…/janet-brooking-11537212


  1. Michael Allen

    Janet’s dedication, perseverance, passion, commitment and kindness changed Virginia and highway safety throughout America. Countless lives have been saved, families have avoided tragedy, and people will spend the holidays with their families because of Janet. And will for years to come.

    One cannot overestimate the difference she made and continues to make through her leadership. We can never fill her shoes, but we will continue her legacy.

  2. Debbie Pickford

    Janet Brooking made Virginia a better place to live. She dedicated her life to ensuring that the roadways we all travel would be safer and that fewer lives would be lost due to car crashes. Janet cared about us and our families and accomplished so much on our behalf.

    Among Janet’s many achievements was passing a Virginia law banning hand-held cell phones while driving which will save many lives. She was masterful in developing partnerships that shared common highway safety goals such as decreasing distracted driving. Janet and her team also worked tirelessly in high schools to teach teens how to drive safely. Created and led by Janet, DriveSmart’s yearly Distracted Driving Summits brings together highway experts and scientists to discuss safety solutions and lends a voice to families who had lost loved ones in car crashes.

    The next time you are driving down I-95, I-66, I-64, Route 29 or any roadway, I hope you will think of Janet and her dedication to making the roads safer for all of us and our families. She was a great Virginia leader, a highway safety innovator, and a compassionate person. Her legacy lives on.

  3. Mike Bruce

    Janet was one of a kind, a phenomenal force for good in our world and a truly amazing person. I am grateful to have known her and still benefit from her friendship even after she’s gone. Our roads are safer and I believe, can be even more so if we honor her legacy and continue this work. My condolences to her family, friends and the VA safety community she built these last 20 years.

  4. Greg Fitch

    I’m deeply saddened to hear of our loss of Janet. She was a force of nature who brought people together. Our group’s impact far exceeded what any one of us could do on our own. I was lucky to work with Janet in 2014, and more recently over the past two years. It’s incredible to see how she built up the conference over the years. Let’s continue to do good work, for Janet.

  5. Barbara Duerk-CONNECT NOW

    Janet worked with Bike VA to recognize and protect all users of Va Highways. DRIVE SMART formed the coalitions and partnerships to move ideas for crash free highways from dreams to reality.

    Thank you Janet. You have made the world a better place to live.

  6. Annette Hilliard

    I can’t think of anymore more passionate and involved in making Virginia roads fatality-free. I worked with Janet for nearly 20 years on our mission to decrease accident frequency from distracted driving. Janet was humble, patient, caring and always willing to put in the hours needed to get the word out on new research, messaging, and laws. Janet will be missed so much and I feel blessed to have known her as a colleague and a friend. I promise to keep our mission going strong Janet!

  7. Toby Word

    I am so sorry to learn of Janet’s passing. I met her only once at an event in Richmond and was moved by her joyfulness and compassion. Her legacy will be long-lasting. My thoughts and prayers are for all who knew and loved her.

  8. Joel Feldman

    Janet’s passing is such a loss for her friends family and the traffic safety community. When I first met Janet I was new to the traffic safety world. She welcomed me, my wife and knew what to say and do for those struggling with the loss of a loved one. Through the years she was the face of the Summit and made it the best conference of its type in the US. She taught me and others so much about collaborating, distracted driving and traffic safety. And now she has taught us how to die with grace and dignity.

  9. Lainee and Mike Biliunas

    Janet was a friend and business partner. She always stived for the best. She was a joy to work with and was always so kind. She really made a difference throughout her career. She will be sorely missed.

  10. Brantley Tyndall

    Janet Brooking was an absolute force in traffic safety, and she was one of the most genuinely helpful people to me as I started to get involved in advocacy at the state level. I will remember her as someone who went out of her way to bring people into the fold, to share information and insight, and to establish trust with disparate partners when the chessboard didn’t always look great. To say she was tireless just doesn’t do it justice. I thank her for trusting me when I was young and naive, and giving me a shot to learn as I went along in the traffic safety world. What a treasure she was as a guide.

    She will likely most be remembered for leading the effort for the Hands Free Driving law that took many years to successfully pass as the Executive Director of DRIVE SMART Virginia. I will remember her for urging me to enroll in the The Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership and putting in a good word for me, for long Friday afternoon phone calls about state politics, for spending time with me at Bud Vye’s funeral, and for the last time I saw her, exactly one year ago, as a speaker at Jonah Holland’s memorial ride event at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. She had a lot of vibrancy left, but it was clear cancer was taking its toll on her. I will miss her big voice and sharp wit.

  11. Christina Dempsey

    Janet was so passionate with her work. She touched so many lives & saved so many lives. She was more than just a mentor to me, she was family. She kept me going when I wanted to give up on Our Hands Free Law, she kept all the families going. She gained support for it, and would stay with us til late hours just to make sure every voice was heard. Janet stood by me & no matter what time it was she was there. She brought so much to Virginia and traffic safety. She brought families together that have lost loved ones due to crashes on our highways. I have so many wonderful memories that will always be close to my heart. I love her so much and will miss her everyday.

  12. Pam Shadel Fischer

    Janet was a force in traffic safety. I was honored to meet her a number of years ago at the distracted driving summit she founded and counted her as a safety colleague and friend, who unselfishly shared her insights with me and so many others. We’ll never know how many lives were saved in Virginia and across the nation because of her commitment, passion and dedication to this work. Despite putting up a valid fight, cancer won out, but Janet’s legacy lives on through the summit, Virginia’s teen program and some many other impactful safety initiatives.

  13. William R. Hinson

    I offer the team at DriveSmart Virginia and Janet’s family my heartfelt condolences. Janet was always energetic, positive minded and enthusiastic about improving highway and driver safety.

  14. T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, PhD, MPH

    My deepest condolences to Janet’s family and the DriveSmart Virginia team. Janet was dedicated and full of great energy – a true road safety champion.

  15. Robyn Robertson & Karen Bowman, TIRF

    Janet’s leadership on road safety issues has had a lasting impact on so many fronts. Her dedication and commitment to action created positive change to make roads safer for everyone. It was a great pleasure to have the opportunity to work collaboratively with Janet to establish the National Distracted Driving Coalition, and she will be sorely missed by all of us. We extend our deepest sympathy to her loved ones, and we will celebrate her life by continuing the work that was important to her.

  16. Cristi Cousins on behalf of MADD VA

    Janet will be remembered for her leadership and vision by the traffic safety community in Virginia, and as a staunch partner by MADD Virginia. Our deepest condolences to her co-workers, family and friends. We are so sorry for your loss.

  17. Tammy Poole

    Janet was an amazing advocate for traffic safety. I worked with her from State Farm and other safety networks when I was in Virginia. She was always responsive and encouraging. I am so sorry for the loss of such an amazing person.

  18. J.T. Griffin

    Very sorry to hear of this loss. Janet did such great work in the Commonwealth and we are all better and safer for her efforts. I will certainly keep her family and friends in my thoughts and prayers.

  19. Jeff Von Rehder

    Janet’s leadership had a lasting impact on Virginia. Her passion for a safer Virginia is unmatched.

    Thank you Janet.

  20. Robb Bohannon

    I had the privilege to work with Janet to advance traffic safety initiatives with the Virginia General Assembly. I often told her how impressed I was with DRIVE SMART’s ability to engage victim families and law enforcement in a meaningful way – the work she was able to accomplish was impressive and made a huge impact on people’s lives. I’m honored that she then became a friend.

  21. Kent Jennings Brockwell

    Janet was an authentic force for good and will be missed by all. I will always be grateful that she trusted us to deliver DRIVE SMART Virginia’s message to the Commonwealth and proud of the work and the award-winning public safety campaigns we created together. My deepest condolences to her family, friends, and colleagues.

  22. Kim Sink

    All of us at Inspiring HR are devastated that our community lost such an incredible force for good. To Janet’s family and the entire DRIVE SMART Virginia team – we are holding you close in our thoughts, may we all strive to continue towards the mission Janet so valiantly led.

  23. Tasha Hairston Springs

    I only knew Janet for a short while, I attended a Drive Smart Summit in 2021 as a survivor of traffic violence. Her drive and dedication to safer roads inspired me to do more advocacy work against distracted driving. Janet’s work will live on and continue to be a driving force for all of us that she touched. May she rest in peace.

  24. Mindy Flanigan

    The entire Inspiring HR team sends their thoughts and prayers to Janet’s family, friends and colleagues. From the minute I met Janet I knew she was a force to be recknoned with and that she would do whatever it took to make Drive Smart an effective agent of change in VA. Her legacy will live on in the work of the fantastic team she leaves behind. Grateful to have known her for as long as I did.

  25. Nancy Lo

    I am soooo saddened to hear the loss of a great advocate, innovator, and most of all a truly great caring, wonderful person. I will miss her no nonsense, get-it-done, motivating energy. Condolences to her personal family and her DriveSmart Family.

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