(Salt Lake City, UT) Car crashes are the number one cause of death for teens across the U.S. In 2012, 21 families were devastated to learn that their teenager had been killed in a motor vehicle crash on Utah roads. Today, they shared their stories to encourage others to drive safely and buckle up.
Donna Sheeran’s 16-year-old daughter, Malone, rolled her car on April 23, 2012. She was on her way home from work when she crashed. She was not wearing a seat belt and suffered massive head trauma. Malone was a sophomore at Summit High School and had plans to attend Louisiana State University to study astrophysics.“We are so blessed to have had her in our lives,” said Sheeran. “We don’t know why the crash occurred, but we do believe that if she had been wearing her seat belt, she would have walked away with minor injuries.” Fewer than half of the teens killed on Utah roads in 2012 were wearing a seat belt.
This is the sixth year the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) and Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) have collected stories of teens killed in motor vehicle crashes. The book will be used by state and local agencies as a prevention tool to help young drivers realize the impact their decisions have on others. The books will also be distributed to high school driver education classes in the state.
Robert Lindley lost his 18-year-old son, Zachery, in an auto-pedestrian crash. Zachery was hit and killed by a driver as he crossed the street on his skateboard. He underwent 10 brain surgeries and suffered numerous health problems over the next nine months as doctors tried to save his life. It wasn’t to be.
Lindley recalled how his son loved to skateboard everywhere he went, but that even as a young child he ignored his parents’ pleas and family rules to always wear his helmet. “Zachy would still be with us had he been wearing a helmet,” said Lindley. “Our regret in this is unspeakable and we miss our boy with every fiber of our beings. Don’t let this happen in your family.”
Utah Highway Safety Office data show that in 2012, 28 teen drivers were involved in a fatal crash. These crashes killed a total of 29 people, and nine of those were the teen drivers. Teen drivers were also 1.3 times more likely to have a contributing factor, such as speeding, in a fatal crash than drivers of other ages.
“Research shows that policies like Graduated Driver Licensing laws and primary seat belt enforcement work,” said Carlos Braceras, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Transportation.
Involved parents who set rules and monitor their teen’s driving behavior in a supportive way can also cut the risk of a crash in half. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, teens whose parents are involved in their driving are twice as likely to wear seat belts, half as likely to speed, and 30 pecent less likely to talk on a cell phone while driving.
“This book we’ve compiled shows the ripple effect our driving decisions can have on our families, friends, and communities,” said Jenny Johnson, UDOH Violence and Injury Prevention Program. “These teens’ stories did not have to go unfinished. The simple decision to choose to wear your seat belt every time you are in a vehicle can and does save lives.”
To download a copy of “Unfinished Stories: 10 Stories, 10 Incomplete Lives, 10 Teens Who Died on Utah Roads” book, visit www.health.utah.gov/vipp or www.dontdrivestupid.com.