In 2011, 23 families were devastated to learn that their teenager had been killed in a motor vehicle crash. Today, these families shared their stories to encourage other drivers to use caution on the road.
Click here to download the “We Remember Every Day” booklet.
Erin Worland’s 13-year-old son Collin was killed on November 2, 2011, two weeks after his birthday. Collin was the oldest of five children and was anxious to learn how to drive, get a job, and serve a mission for his church. He was walking to school with a group of friends when he was hit by a 19-year-old driver high on marijuana.
“I heard sirens and ran outside praying,” recalled Worland. “I saw a pair of blue and black shoes in the road and knew it was Collin. I ran over to my precious boy, who was unconscious and lying in a pool of blood. I couldn’t believe it was real. My life, as I knew it, was over.”
This is the fifth year the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) and Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) have collected stories of teens killed in motor vehicle crashes. The book will be used by state and local agencies as a prevention tool to help young drivers realize the impact their decisions have on others. The books will also be distributed to high school driver education classes in the state. Since publication of the first book in 2008, the rate of teen deaths from motor vehicle crashes has dropped 30%.
“If there is any good that can come from this, I hope it will send a message to young people about the dangers of drugs and the importance of attentive driving,” said Worland. “There are some mistakes that can’t be undone and will forever rob us of what could have been.”
Utah Highway Safety Office data show an increase in the number of teens killed in auto-pedestrian crashes―from one in 2010 to five in 2011. In addition, eight (35%) of the teens killed in 2011 were drivers, nine (39%) were passengers, and one (4%) was a driver of an ATV. Nearly 75% of the victims were male.
UDOH officials point to the fact that only 25% of the teens killed in 2011 were wearing a seat belt. In comparison, 90% of the 18,380 teens who were in a crash last year and survived were wearing a seat belt. Teen drivers were also three times more likely to have a contributing factor, such as speeding, in a fatal crash than drivers of other ages. In addition to speeding, the most common contributing factors in fatal teen-driver crashes in 2011 were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, failing to stay in the proper lane, overcorrecting, and driving distracted.
Melanie McElroy’s 19-year-old daughter Kellie was killed when her cousin―and best friend―was speeding and lost control of the car. The vehicle car flipped end over end, landed on its roof, and caught fire. Kellie never made it out of the burning car alive.
“Speeding, reckless driving, texting while driving, DUI…they just simply are not worth the price that has to be paid when a crash occurs as a result,” said McElroy.
“This book shows the ripple effect our driving decisions can have on our families, friends, and communities,” said Jenny Johnson, UDOH Violence and Injury Prevention Program. “Talk with your loved ones, friends, and classmates about how these tragedies might have been prevented. Always wear your seat belt and set rules for your car and whenever you ride in someone else’s car.”