Teen Driving Deaths – Part 1
Speeding, talking on the phone, sending a text message – they can all play a part in a car crash. Add a teenage driver to that mix and that crash could have deadly results. Last year, nearly 50 fatal car crashes involved someone between the ages of 16 and 24.That’s why the Secretary of State’s office is considering changing the rules for young drivers.Those changes, though, will come too late for the families of two boys killed last fall in Carmel.”I’d give anything for him to just give me a hug or to hear his voice.”Kathy Picken lives with the kind of pain no parent should have to bear. “I walk in and I expect him to be there and he’s not. He shouldn’t be gone.”He is Jimmy McPhearson, Kathy’s youngest son. Three months ago, at the age of 16, Jimmy was driving a car with his soon-to-be step brother, 14-year-old R.J. Picken. It veered off a road in Carmel and into a tree. Authorities say speed and inexperience contributed to the crash. “He didn’t think about what could or would happen,” says Kathy. “Any more than I’ve done when I had to rush from my house to the hospital, where my mother’s been a couple of times.”"Neither one of those two boys thought they were going to die, ” says Richard Picken. “They were invincible. We’ll they’re not obviously. It happens to the best of them. Jimmy was a great kid, RJ was a great kid. They didn’t realize the consequences of their actions.”Richard says it’s those consequences that young drivers need to better understand.”Before they pick up their cell phone, before they reach over to change the radio station, or change their cd out and put in the next cd, think twice. Think twice and save a life.”But how to get that across to teenagers is hard to answer.Richard believes raising the age to get a license won’t make difference – but more time behind the wheel could.He says what beginning drivers, of any age need, is more experience and a dose of common sense.”They need to realize that things happen in the blink of eye. It’s just that quick and then their families are left dealing with the loss of a child.”As the Secretary of State’s office searches for solutions to lower teen driving deaths, Kathy and Richard know their sons are being looked to as an example. They hope what happened changes the course for at least one other young driver.Kathy says, “Yeah, it’s fun to speed and joke around, but take a second to remember Jimmy, who’s gone because of that.”"It’s the little things,” says Richard. “But the little things save lives. I wouldn’t wish what we’ve gone through on anybody. It stinks. No parents should ever have to bury a child.”Kathy adds, “Be thankful for what you have, every single day because the next second, it could be gone.”What about the friends of teenagers killed in car crashes – how does losing a friend change their driving habits?We’ll take a closer look at that in Part 2 of this story and find out what some local driving instructors say needs to be done to keep kids safe behind the wheel.