Teen Driving Accidents Impacts Community

The community has been impacted heavily by teen driving accidents, especially since last year. --Graphic by Josh Proctor

Approximately 6,000 adolescents die each year due to accidents caused by driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol according to the NHSTA.

Reckless behavior like racing, drinking and driving not only endangers the life of the driver, but also the lives of innocent bystanders. The presence of teenage passengers increases the risk of a crash, as does driving at night or on weekends. Teens are known to be the least likely age group to use seat belts and the most likely to drink and drive. “Research continues to show that young drivers between 15 and 20 years of age are more often involved in alcohol-related crashes than any other comparable age groups,” according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

Route 108 and Veirs Mill Road are infamous for fatal car accidents among local students. Many of these accidents were either caused by alcohol or speeding. Most students are not aware of the consequences of these actions, until they experience them firsthand.

The RHS community was recently hit hard with the loss of student Thiago Andrade on Viers Mill Road. Driver Johvanny Alonso Garmendez was speeding, lost control of the vehicle, hit a tree and split the car in two. Andrade was a passenger and was reported dead at the scene. He was supposed to graduate from RHS in 2010.

However, tragedies like this are not only limited to RHS. Last year, three students from Magruder High School died in a car crash because of drinking. Of the five students in the car, only two, the driver and a passenger, survived. While the driver Kevin Coffay escaped with his life, he has not avoided punishment. Coffay faces 20 years in prison for three counts of manslaughter. “Drinking and driving is straight up stupid, you not only risk your own life but the lives of people around, just like Kevin Coffay did,” said junior Emily Shutak.

Other driving deaths are accidents for reasons not related to alcohol or speeding. That was the case for 17-year-old Alex Popeck, who would have graduated from Sherwood High School in 2012. On his way to cross country practice one day, Popeck’s car slid off the road.
Such devastating losses have inspired many to be cautious and avoid the reckless behavior that causes fatal accidents. The Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protected ACT (STANDUP Act) was introduced in the Senate last March to ensure safe roads and to prevent teen car accidents.

“I think schools have a responsibility to help students understand the heavy responsibility that driving entails and to educate them regarding the dangers of driving recklessly,” said Principal Dr. Debra Munk. This act contains many restrictions and extra precautions for students to earn their license. However, many teens oppose these rules and regulations.

“High school is the most important time for students to have their license because people will not be able to drive to school, practice or their jobs,” said junior Angela DiFonzo. If enacted STANDUP would prevent students with late birthdays from earning their full license until college. It remains to be seen whether new laws or regulations will be enacted to curb teen driving or whether it will be left to teenagers to drive responsibly.