Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"We’ll Never Forget" Families of teen crash victims share their grief

(Salt Lake City, UT) – In 2014, 29 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, buckle up, and cherish your loved ones.

Angela Child’s 19-year-old daughter, Angel Stringfellow, rolled her car on October 9, 2014 as she and her friend were traveling to Dixie State University. As Angel passed a bus on the freeway, her tire blew out. She overcorrected and rolled down an embankment. Neither teen was wearing a seat belt. Angel was ejected and died from head and blunt force trauma.

“One simple decision to put on a seat belt could have saved my daughter’s life; and it will save yours! Don’t let your family lose you,” said Child.

In 2015, nearly half of all teens killed on Utah roads were not restrained. “Three out of four people who are ejected during a fatal crash die from their injuries. The simple decision to choose to wear your seat belt every time you are in a vehicle can and does save lives,” said Carlos Braceras, Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) Executive Director.

This is the eighth year the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) and UDOT have collected stories of teens killed in motor vehicle crashes. The book is used by state and local agencies as a prevention tool to help young drivers realize the impact their decisions have on others. The books are also distributed to high school driver education classes throughout the state.

“The Zero Fatalities effort to educate teens about how their actions can devastate others is an extremely effective preventive measure; something our legislators often ask for when considering how to spend taxpayer dollars,” said Carrie Moore, Executive Director of The Bradley Center for Grieving Children and Families. “Fatalities that never happen spare not only the families of the victims, but we avoid the very real social costs that often follow the loss of a loved one. The books show the ripple effect our driving decisions can have on our families, friends, and communities. These teens’ memories will live on, and their stories will not be forgotten.”

On August 23, 2014, 15-year-old Jacob Santos and his grandmother, Ruth Nelson, were coming home from the Box Elder County Fair in Tremonton, Utah. Jacob was driving and didn’t see an oncoming truck as he made a left hand turn onto Highway 89. They were T-boned on the driver side of the vehicle and he and his grandmother were killed on impact.

“Jacob had his learner permit and was in need of more driving hours so he could get his license on his 16th birthday. His grandmother willingly let him drive her home because that’s what loving grandmas do,” said Deanne Brown, Jacob’s mother. “He had a lack of experience being a new driver. It doesn’t mean that Jacob’s grandmother was to blame. But how many accidents could be prevented if we paid closer attention?”  

Data from the Utah Highway Safety Office showed that in 2014, 32 teen drivers were involved in a fatal crash, killing a total of 33 people, including 15 of the teen drivers. Teen drivers were 1.8 times more likely to have a contributing factor, such as speeding, in a fatal crash than drivers of other ages.

“Involved parents who set rules and monitor their teen’s driving behavior in a supportive way can cut their risk of a crash in half,” said Dr. Joseph Miner, UDOH Executive Director.  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 percent less likely to talk on a cell phone while driving.

To download a copy of the book We’ll Never Forget: Remembering 10 Lives Lost on Utah Roads, visit or 

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Media Contact:
Jenny Johnson
Utah Department of Health
(o) 801-538-9416 (m) 385-290-7826