Distracted teens deadly in cars
Contrary to what is a popular belief, most teens killed in car wrecks have not been drinking. According to non-profit Impact Teen Drivers®, “More than 75 percent of fatal teen collisions are not caused by alcohol or drugs. More than 5,000 teen deaths (nationwide) could be prevented by eliminating unsafe driving behaviors and distractions such as texting, eating or having friends in the car.”
Impact Teen Drivers®, headquartered in Sacramento, was brought to Bakersfield by Kern County Network for Children to train educators, law enforcement and community organizations on how to present the story to teens in hopes of reversing the trend. The message is not the result of an overnight whim. The facts were compiled by the California Association of Highway Patrolmen and California Casualty Management Group that, along with the California Teachers Association, formed Impact Teen Drivers® in 2007.
Perhaps one of the saddest stories the group has to tell is delivered by Martha Tessmer. Just two weeks before he would have started his senior year of high school, Tessmer’s son Donovan was killed in an automobile accident, after the female driver was ridiculed for driving too fast and weaving by her four peer passengers. She reacted by over correcting too severely, lost control of the car and hit a tree, ejecting Donovan and two others who were not wearing seat belts.
“It never gets easier,” Tessmer told her Bakersfield audience. “In doing this, we are honoring my son’s life, as well as his death. He had worked really hard to be a good person and live a good life. And he was robbed of it all because of distracted driving. Nothing that happened in that car had to happen. I make these presentations in the hopes of saving one young life or one family from suffering like we did from something that’s preventable.”
Part of the presentation is a five minute video telling the story of what happened that day in 2007, that affected not only Tessmer’s family but the lives of the others in the car, their families and countless others who through association or relation would never see the future the same way again.
Tessmer illustrated how such an event can affect the lives of so many. She brought others up from the audience wearing labels such as “family,” “team members,” “classmates” and so on. They, grasped hands and formed a circle. Tessmer had a few intertwine themselves by crawling through a maze of arms while still maintaining hand contact. Then, she removed one person from the group, breaking the circle and leaving a nonsymmetrical gap of confused people.
Ironically, Impact Teen Drivers® began the same year Donovan died. Two years later, the California Highway Patrol had heard about his story and videotaped it for use in classrooms nationwide. Tessmer said she agreed to the taping because, “I realized part of the challenge is to get the presentation in front of the audience that has to hear this message.” She is now the volunteer regional coordinator for central California. She made her first presentation in January and says in less than four months has presented trainings to more than 10,000 people.
California Casualty statistics show that “motor vehicle accidents will kill more than 900 teens in California this year.” For more information visit http://www.impactteendrivers.org.