Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

Searching for Answers

Posted January 15, 2007

Another young person from our area died in a car accident this week.  Investigators say alcohol and speed were factors.  I think in addition to that they would add that driver inexperience almost always plays a role in all crashes involving teenagers. 

I can't remember how many of these types of stories I've covered in seventeen years- twenty, thirty, maybe fifty?  They all have grim similarities.  In most of these cases the friends of the deceased make monuments at the crash site complete with stuffed animals, pictures, notes, balloons and flowers.  This is the place were high school classmates hang onto one another and share their memories of their friend.  Sometimes they sit cross-legged on the grass leaning against one another their tear-stained expressionless faces staring into what has become a place to find answers.

I talk to the teenagers.  I go to the school and speak with the principal, teachers, and coaches.  Sometimes I make the long walk up the driveway of a family who is dealing with unimaginable tragedy and knock on their door.  I find myself doing the latter less and less these days because I know the answer is not on the other side of that door.  It's not in the pile of teddy bears at the crash site.  It's not on the soccer field behind the school.

"Why does this keep happening?"  Someone asked me in our morning meeting.  "Parents want to know." 

So do I.  So do I.  But after years of asking the question I still don't have the answer.

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  • sevenspringsseven Jan 16, 2007

    The make and model of the car is not to blame. (A pickup truck can be just as deadly - I knew several people who died in them racing or rolling them when I was a teenager). Regulating the speed of a car isn't a viable option (too many adults won't go for that kind of regulation). I think it comes down to what was said before, with slight exception. You, as a parent, have an obligation to know where your kid is. You have an obligation to know what your kid is doing. You don't get "the night off from being a parent" just because your kid is old enough to drive. It is incorrect that teenagers don't have rights to privacy - that they have to earn the basic human rights we all share in this great nation. They do have rights to privacy. But they don't have the right to drink underage, or to drive like maniacs, or to endanger themselves or others. That is your job as a parent, to instill that info in them. You are their guide. Sometimes it's tough, but it's up to you. Only you.

  • martini Jan 16, 2007

    Amanda I must agree with you. I have a daughter that will be turning 16 this Spring. I am not looking forward to her having the responsiblity of driving. I have always stressed to my kids that a vehicle is 2,500 pound deadly weapon. I know she will not have full blown privileges but still it is a scary part of parenthood. Once again, the family of the student is in our thoughts and prayers.

  • tke197 Jan 16, 2007

    I have been looking for a forum to express these concerns. I would be interested to know what kind of car these kids are driveing. In the Garner accident that killed the West Johnston High kids it was a Camaro convertible. In the I 64 accident, wasn't it a BMW? In the previous accident on 540 wasn't it a souped up import? I personally have purchased a 1966 Ford pickup for my son. Nothing racy about that. It's also built like a tank. With a upgraded seat belt system, I feel relatively safe with him behind the wheel. Maybe it's time to let the kids learn to drive in something a little more substantial and less related to the wealth of the family or as a status symbol. These are our kids, we only have one chance to raise them until they can fend for themselves.

  • Tax Man Jan 16, 2007

    Amanda, most kids think they are immortal - they seek their peers approval and drinking has always been a part of the "forbidden" areas teens can delve into. It is a shame the kids' friends cannot let them know they do not need the "bad" behavior to be loved and accepted. Parents must also talk to their kids - and know what the kids are up to. It is a shame to lose such young people for such preventable reasons.

  • renaissanceman Jan 16, 2007

    I think it is a matter of time before the next big classaction lawsuit hits the courts...why in a country where the max speed limit is 70 are cars allowed to potentially run 100-200 mph...could the auto manufacturers be part to blame...an easy fix would be to make sure autos available to the public can't go over say 75 mph and have chips installed in teenagers vehicles restricting it to say 50-55 mph...you could go a step further and have police cars top out at say 100 mph...think about it, if your car will only run 75mph and the police can go 100mph there would be alot less high speed chases and alot less innocent victims of high speed accidents...

  • jbarrington2 Jan 16, 2007

    This is a terrible tragedy that keeps happening to our young people. You cannot monitor or control everything that your teenager does. However, I have to wonder how many parents who's kids were at that party actually knew that their child was there. It's as though many parents are afraid of invading on their children's space and aren't nearly as involved as they should be. Teenagers do not inherently have a right to privacy. Privacy and trust must be earned. These are kids we are dealing with, not adults! Whether they are 14 or 18, they will generally make decisions that 14 and 18 year olds normally make. Quit expecting your teenage daughter or son to make an adult decision. Yes, you should expect kids to be responsible and respectable, but by bowing to your kid's every complaint or rant about how you as the parent are not respecting their privacy, you are perpetuating these senseless type of events. It seems that no one takes away any lessons from these horrible happenings.

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WRAL's Amanda Lamb offers a behind-the-scenes look at what TV news reporters do, the people they meet and how their jobs affect them.