Around 10 o’clock in the morning on Sept. 14, Jake Ehert was eastbound on Route 55 in Sullivan County when the 2004 Toyota Camry he was driving left the south shoulder of the road, then re-entered the highway and veered into the westbound lane sideways. The 2014 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck coming from the opposite direction was unable to avoid hitting Ehert’s car. Jake was pronounced dead at the scene.
He was 19-years-old.
At around 3 a.m. on April 27, Suffern High School student Jacqueline Zangrilli was riding in the backseat of a 2003 Jaguar on Route 202 in Rockland County when the 17-year-old driver sped off the road and struck a utility pole, splitting the pole in half before flipping on its side. Jacqueline was pronounced dead.
She was 16 years old.
At about 8 a.m. on August 16, 18-year-old Alon M. Forbes of the Bronx rear-ended another car on Interstate 87, drove through a guide rail and ended up at the bottom of a 40-foot embankment. Rashid K. Hopson of Spring Valley, a passenger in the back, was pronounced dead at the scene.
She was 19 years old.
These kids didn’t know what would happen when they ventured out. Their parents were in no way prepared for the unbearable news delivered to their doors by a police officer on those days. In no way were they prepared to bury their children.
That child could be yours. Those parents could be you.
These are just three examples from our state in the last few months, out of the 4,600 fatalities involving drivers age 15-20 that will occur in the U.S. this year. Of all the special “weeks” that are declared these days, National Teen Driver Safety Week might be one of the most important.
It’s a week for parents to speak to their teenage children about the dangers of being on the road and reminding them how to be safe. And it’s a week for state and federal lawmakers to do all they can legislatively to help reduce the number of tragedies.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is urging the adoption of more stringent Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) programs, better performance and safety standards for all vehicles to prevent and mitigate the damage from crashes, restrictions on night-time driving and the number of passengers a teen driver can carry, and restrictions on cell phone use.
Parents, you need to stress with your teenagers your own rules against driving with friends, driving while impaired, speeding, and driving while distracted by cell phones. Sit down. Have the talk. Ignore the eye-rolling and sighs.
We’re not talking about statistics here. We’re not talking about crashes happening in some far-away places to strangers.
These are our towns. These are our kids.
Do all you can to keep their names out of the next newspaper editorial like this one.