After eight years of declines, more young people are dying on roads in the nation and in our region
Michael D. Clark reports:
Former high school sports star John Garrison struggles each day with one of the gallery of misfortunes that worry parents whose teenagers drive: Brain damage from a car crash.
Garrison, now 20 years old, is still a student at Northwest High School. A 2009 car crash – with a teen behind the wheel and Garrison a passenger unsecured by a seat belt – hurled him through a window of the SUV. His head injuries were so grave attending paramedics thought he had died at the crash site.
It’s a nightmare scenario that will haunt high school parents in the coming weeks through the prom and graduation season. Thousands of area teen drivers will hit the road, many of them excited and dangerously distracted.
Feeding parents’ fears are national studies showing that after years of safer driving, more teens today are dying on roadways. And Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky reflect the grim trend.
When Garrison speaks to younger students at his school, the room grows silent when they notice his teary eyes.
“I used to play football and wrestle. And I used to be smart,” Garrison tells classmates in a halting voice.
“I probably would have had a college scholarship to play football. But I lost it all in a second.”
Garrison is a cautionary tale that parents and school officials hope cuts through the often distracted consciousness of teen drivers this time of year.
Schools try to combat the rising death toll on the nation’s roads with the now-familiar programs highlighting the perils of distracted or drunken driving.
Some teen-driving experts, however, question the timing of traditional spring driver safety programs and their overall effectiveness in light of the uptick in the number of fatalities involving teens.
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