As I mark five years since Reid’s crash, I feel a need to explain myself – why I publish this blog, what I am trying to achieve. That is, today is my own personal GPS day, a time to look back at the route taken and to consider the destinations ahead.
People often ask me if publishing this blog is therapeutic, if I use this activity to deal with my grief over Reid’s passing. I suppose many folks assume this to be the case without asking. But this is most assuredly not true. For the year after Reid’s crash, I floundered in every aspect of my life — as I have often said in my posts, not in the sense of beating myself up for making a huge and obvious mistake while supervising Reid’s driving, but more feeling confused because I thought I had done all of the things that a parent of a teen driver was supposed to do, and yet my son still died. Then, in late 2007, I joined Connecticut’s Task Force on Safe Teen Driving, got a thorough reeducation in the dangers of teen driving, and discovered that in 2006 I had not been the well informed parent that I thought I was. Serving on the Task Force, I discovered that so much of the literature available to parents of teen drivers simply does not explain the risks and dangers; makes the assumption that teens will drive when they reach the minimum legal age; and gives parents the clear impression that their job is to teach teens the rules of the road and how to handle a vehicle — and then just sit at home and pray. In other words, I don’t do this teen driving stuff because of grief or guilt; I do it because, after serving on the Task Force, I learned that we have an appalling national problem with inadequate education of parents of teen drivers. When the Task Force’s work was finished, I felt a call to step up and do what one person could do try to to fill the gap.
So what keeps me plugging away? Here is a partial list:
- the upside-down traffic culture in our country: we are desensitized to traffic crashes and fatalities because they are so common as to draw little notice, and because the infotainment industry glorifies speed, risk taking, and crashes.
- the periodic eNewsletters I get from the Safe Roads Coalition, with links to searing news articles from around the country about fatal teen driving crashes and who dies (siblings, parents, pedestrians, fellow students).
- the annual national data from NHTSA on teen driver crashes, fatalities, and injuries.
- the absolute madness of auto manufacturers and the electronics industry now collaborating to introduce new, distracting technologies to the dashboards of new cars, all of which are plainly destined to increased distracted driving crashes (and the federal government’s tepid response to this growing problem).
- attitudes of parents who just don’t get it, who regard law enforcement as an annoyance and teen driving laws as political grandstanding.
- a desire to believe that my son did not die in vain, that something good has resulted from his crash.
- the dedicated traffic safety professionals from around the country that I have had the privilege to get to know during these past few years.
- and a bunch of these folks who I am pleased to now call friends.
On Sunday December 11, The Compassionate Friends, the national organization for parents who have lost children, is organizing its annual Worldwide Candle Lighting. Wherever you are at 7PM, you are asked to light a candle in memory of children who have died. So many of those remembered by this event have died in motor vehicle crashes. I invite you to take a moment then to light a candle to remember Reid and honor all children who have passed away. And as always, thank you for your interest in this blog.