A Series Of Preventable Mistakes: Hunter’s Story
Too many passengers and distractions led to the death of teenage boy
The car drifted around the corner and the inexperienced driver over-corrected. Hurtling across the rural mountain road, the car slammed into a tree. Hunter Clegg, a fourteen year old boy sitting in the front passenger seat, died in the crash. Everyone else walked away from this tragic, preventable crash.
Hunter was full of energy, friendly to all and well-liked in return. He excelled at soccer and other outdoor pursuits, but offered the world more than his gift in sports. Kids gravitated toward Hunter for his well-rounded personality, compassion and zest for life. In 2009, with his whole life ahead of him, the future was bright as he prepared to enter high school.
Two days after freshman orientation, Hunter joined a group of teens and one parent for a camping trip. The next day, on the way home, tragedy struck. This crash was the consequence of a series of poor choices and could have very easily been prevented.
First, the supervising parent asked his 17 year old son to drive a group of teens. The teen's license was still subject to California's Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws.
Second, the teen driver did not resist his father's request and none of the other teens objected. Finally, with a toxic mix of distractions and reckless driving, the inexperienced driver lost control of his vehicle. The cost of these bad decisions was the life of one young teen.
After Hunter's death, it took his family about two years before they could even consider sharing their pain and suffering with others. "Given the depths of despair and level of pain that we felt, you would do anything to prevent it from happening to any other family" his mom, Leeana explained.
She has since dedicated her life to teen driver safety education. "Saving lives is why I am doing it," she says.
Leeana decided to join forces with non-profit, Impact Teen Drivers (ITD). ITD, with support from State Farm, hopes to create a driving culture free of distractions. Based in Sacramento, California, they provide materials and presentations to schools for the benefit of parents and teens.
During the ITD workshops in Northern California, Leeana, one of their presenters, reminds her audience, “being a good kid has nothing to do with being an experienced driver.” Hunter was in a car with a good kid behind the wheel.
Two-thirds through the presentation, after the audience has watched a video about Hunter's story (video: parent version/ teen version), Leeana steps back on stage and reintroduces herself as Hunter's mom. This late reveal makes an emotional impact on the audience.
People assume presenting Hunter's story is part of the healing process for Leeana and her family. "It is hard, relieving the worst part of my life repeatedly," she explains. "It was anything but therapeutic. Only now, years later, has it become a little easier."
Leeana emphasizes that saving lives is everyone's responsibility. Parents, in particular, are at the heart of the solution to keeping kids safe.
In Leeana's experience, parents are not always informed about GDL laws in their state. It is imperative parents know the laws and "enforce the laws in their own home, every time with no exceptions," she insists. With engaged parents leading by example it is possible to reduce teen driver crashes.
Find your state’s GDL law @ http://st8.fm/findGDL
The culture and laws have changed when it comes to wearing seat belts, using child passenger safety seats, and driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. As a result, lives have been saved. Leeana knows GDL laws are critical to saving more lives. GDL is a critical tool, and if properly implemented and supported, will help combat distracted and reckless driving.