Grief counselors will be on hand tomorrow, following the deaths of two students in a car crash. Both victims are from Wallingford and it has left the town grief-stricken.Especially poignant for young people who are about to start driving? The situation is definitely poignant, meaning it evokes a keen sense of sadness or regret. It is always sorrowful when young people lose their lives, departing this earth before they’ve ever had a chance to truly make an impact on a larger circle of people than their close friends and relatives, before they’ve really seen other parts of the world, or before they’ve gone through such benchmark life experiences as high school graduation, college, marriage, and parenthood. The situation should be poignant to everyone, not just to young people, and not just to young people who are about to start driving.
Tyler Priore, 15, was a sophomore at Notre Dame High in West Haven. The driver of the car --- 16-year-old George McLean was a student at Xavier High School in Middletown.
Police say the car was going fast on Williams Road last night when the driver lost control --- crossing the center line and slamming into a tree.
David Cojas, 15, survived the crash and was listed in stable condition at Yale New Have Hospital.
This latest teen tragedy is especially poignant for young people who will soon take to the road themselves.
But since the author of the news article saw fit to single them out, what exactly should “young people who are about to start driving” take away from this tragedy? Not knowing any of the particulars of this most recent accident and being the parent of a daughter who is about to start driver’s training, here are some of my suggestions:
1. Don’t hasten the licensing process, not matter how many of your friends have their licenses. Take the time to clock enough time behind the wheel, more time than you (or your parents) probably think is necessary. In Connecticut, any driver under 18 years of age must hold a permit for 120-180 days before they can apply for the licensing exam. Make full use of that time.
2. Study, with your parents, the boundaries of your automobile. Recognize where your car is in relation to other drivers.
3. Learn to drive defensively. If possible, complete a defensive driving course that uses a simulator. Unfortunately, these are not widely available at this time, but if a center is available near your home, make use of it. For a list of centers, click here.
4. With your parents, make a plan to expose yourself to a wide variety of driving scenarios and weather conditions before obtaining your license.
5. Complete more than the minimum requirements for your license. For instance, in Connecticut, homeschooled students must complete only four hours of drug and alcohol education as it pertains to operating a motor vehicle. That seems woefully inadequate to me, and to my daughter, so we plan to include a bit more study on those subjects when the time comes.
6. To the best of your ability, and at a minimum, obey the restrictions that the state has placed on you as a teen driver. In most cases, these are not unreasonable, nor do they infringe on your liberty as a citizen of the United States. If you are not supposed to be driving after 10:00 PM, for example, make certain you are home with your family before that hour. If you are not supposed to carry passengers with you, other than family members, don’t offer to take your friends to the mall after school. Obey the law, even if it is tough to do so in the face of peer pressure. Your life may depend on it.
7. Follow safe driving practices, even if these are not always modeled by your parents: wear your seatbelt, obey speed limits, park legally, and don’t talk on your cell phone (or text message) while driving.
Learning to operate a motor vehicle is one of the riskiest, most significant, and responsibility-laden endeavors a teenager ever attempts. All of us, as parents, pray never to be the one who receives that phone call saying our child is the latest victim of an automobile accident. It takes a tremendous amount of faith to let them go and let them drive. Yet, we can influence the process, I believe, much more than we think we can and, oftentimes, much more than we do. Be there, so your “young person who is about to start driving” learns more than poignancy from this latest tragedy.
For a more complete news story about this event, click here.