03/07/06 — Know the danger: Responsible driving can prevent tragedies

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Know the danger: Responsible driving can prevent tragedies

Four Wakefield High School seniors will not be spending March and April planning for their proms and choosing their colleges.

They won’t be trying on graduation gowns or choosing which of their senior pictures they want to send along with their commencement invitations.

They won’t be fighting with their parents about what time they have to be home at night, and when — or if — they are going to mow the lawn.

These four boys are gone. They won’t be able to do any of the things that thousands of high school students around Raleigh will be doing this spring.

They lost their lives on an overpass Saturday night.

And the worst part is, their deaths were preventable. They died because of a moment of what can only be termed as youthful ignorance — a brief flash of invincibility that made one of them think that the stories about teenagers who lose their lives on the highway were just that — stories.

Down went the accelerator and the car, which was believed to have been traveling at a rate of speed approaching 115 mph, skidded out of control. A horrible crash later, the car burst into flames, and four young men had lived their last days.

There are many adults who know what kind of recklessness teenagers are prone to when they get together. It is that invincibility thing again. Some of them have even seen these same teenagers behaving irresponsibly on the roadway, cutting off other drivers and traveling at an unsafe speed. And usually, that young person has a cell phone to his or her ear and the radio blaring.

What many parents don’t realize is that the phrase, “not my son or daughter,” has been uttered by many a mom or dad who was certain his or her child would never behave recklessly on the road.

Until, that is, they get a call like those four sets of parents got Saturday.

Teenagers really do not belong on superhighways at night. There is not a city in America that has not had a story just like Raleigh’s about some teenager who thought he or she could use the highway as a racetrack. Many teens are responsible, but when presented with a little freedom, a fancy car, a pack of friends and the open road, some lose their judgment.

While the loss of these four young men is a tragedy, perhaps their deaths could be the wakeup call that keeps another young person safe — maybe even right here in Wayne County.

Talk to your teenager about driving responsibly, show him or her the story, limit the number of passengers in his or her car and make sure the cell phone is stowed.

Don’t assume he or she already knows how dangerous a car can be, especially with prom season and graduation parties on the horizon.

No parent should have endure the kind of pain that these four families are experiencing.

Not when there is a chance that a word of warning just might make a difference.

Published in Editorials on March 7, 2006 9:49 AM