It’s easy to imagine the good time and feelings six area teenagers were having on Super Bowl Sunday night when they piled into the same sport utility vehicle and drove to a nearby grocery store for snacks.
It’s easy to put yourself in their shoes at the time and easy enough to admit many of us would’ve done, or been tempted to do, the same thing at their age.
It was also all too easy and tragic for an accident to happen with six young teens in one car with a young, inexperienced driver at the wheel.
That’s why it’s imperative for teen drivers to take recent life-changing and life-ending car accidents as a wake-up call. Driving rules are in place for new drivers for a reason and teens must stop violating them for their own safety and the safety of others.
On Feb. 3 the six teens were in an SUV with a 17-year-old with his provisional license driving on Auburn Folsom Road near Lees Lane when the driver lost control, the SUV struck a guard rail and rolled into a residential yard. Two of the teen passengers were not wearing seatbelts and were pronounced dead on the scene. The remaining passengers were belted in and suffered minor to moderate injuries.
Law enforcement reported the vehicle was driving at a minimum 45 mph at the time. The driver was not allowed to have teen passengers under the provisional license laws.
The law states that for the first 12 months with a new license the licensee may not drive between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. and not have any passengers younger than 20 unless they are accompanied and supervised by a licensed driver who is the parent or guardian, older than 25 or a certified driving instructor.
The 17-year-old driver had his license for four months and his passengers ranged in age from 13 to 17.
Sadly, this is the second time in the same school year where local high school students have suffered from breaking the rules.
In September, eight students were injured and one so seriously he was air-lifted from the scene when a teen driver hit the side of a tractor-trailer and rolled over the SUV the group was in on eastbound Interstate 80 near the Elm Avenue exit.
Fortunately no one died but the scars are lasting for at least one.
The 17-year-old driver of that vehicle was later found at fault for making an unsafe turn. She was also driving outside of the bounds of her license and should not have had seven other teenagers in the car at the time.
In both accidents, the most serious injuries came to those who were not wearing a seatbelt. Injuries from that rollover and the tragic loss of two teenage girls in the February accident underscore the life-saving importance of putting on the seatbelt always.
If there is a bright light to come out of these two accidents, it’s the show of support and strength by fellow students, teachers, parents, coaches and community members.
Following the February accident, Newcastle Elementary students rushed to finish a planned community garden to memorialize one of the students killed. Del Oro High School received several banners with words of support from rival schools following the death of one of their own.
When the student was injured in the September accident, a fundraiser was held to help offset his medical costs.
It’s uplifting to see young students rallying to support each other during a tragic time.
However, it would be more uplifting and much easier for students to support each other everyday in following driving laws and being safe on the road. Encourage one another to not crowd into one car together. Only do so with an experienced, older driver behind the wheel or in the passenger seat.
The temporary loss of a ride with friends is nothing compared to the lifelong heartbreak of a lost life.