ANOKA, Minn. (WCCO) — The family of a woman killed in a crash with a semi-truck marched for distracted driving awareness in the Anoka Halloween Parade Saturday.

Two years ago in September, Katie Burkey was killed on Highway 169 after her car was rear-ended by a semi-truck. Since her death, her family has advocated for the Hands-Free Law and tougher distracted driving penalties.

The parade is known for candy and costumes, but this year, one float stood out from all of the rest.

In front of thousands, family members and friends of Burkey honored a life taken away just as it was starting.

“Our driver got to go home at the end of the day and my daughter will never be back,” said Karen Altman, Burkey’s mom.”Of the faces on the float today, four of them were 22 years old and will never fulfill their futures.”

Karen Altman is the force behind the float and Justice 4 Katie, a foundation dedicated to making changes, creating awareness, and honoring her daughter.

Felony charges were never filed against the semi-truck driver, but her family believes he was distracted by something behind the wheel.

“Tougher laws really need to be implemented, because you’re taking a human life,” Altman said.

Alongside Burkey’s picture were photos of Minnesotans killed by distracted drivers. The float also featured a smashed car where a father and daughter lost their lives in 2015 after being hit by a teenager on her phone.

“I don’t know how you really recover from it, but you know, it’s day by day,” said Burkey’s high school best friend, Jennifer Garcia. “I want people to know that it happens and it’s real; it’s very real — and it’s one of the worst experiences you could possibly go through.”

Even though the new Hands-Free Law is in place, there is still more work to be done when it comes to educating the public to pay attention and just drive. That’s the message the Justice 4 Katie Foundation wants to continue spreading — one step at a time.

The foundation will hold their second annual “Kicks For Katie” Kickball Tournament in March.

Mary McGuire

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