Take sensible steps to avoid needless tragedy

Monday, June 30, 2003

If you are a teenager or the parent of a teen, please pay close attention to the following words. They were written by Harold W. Andersen, the publisher emeritus of the Omaha World-Herald and one of the most distinguished journalists in Nebraska history.

While Mr. Andersen was writing about the death of young people from Weeping Water and Louisville, his message applies equally to teenagers in Southwest Nebraska and Northwest Kansas. Every community in the Golden Plains -- from Benkelman to Eustis and from Imperial to Oberlin -- has felt the heart-tearing agony of losing young people in car accidents. Here's what Mr. Andersen has to say:

"After reading the headline on the story of an accident that killed two teenagers, and left the teenage driver in critical condition, it was -- tragically and unnecessarily -- easy to surmise that this was the scenario: The teenagers were on the road hours after they should have been in bed, and alcohol was involved.

Reading into the story, my assumptions were confirmed. The accident happened shortly after 3:30 a.m. when the southbound car carrying the teenagers crossed the center line of Highway 31 north of Gretna and hit a northbound semi-trailer truck headon. State Patrol Trooper Eric Aho said beer cans were strewn across the floor of the car.

"I say the accident was tragic because it snuffed out the lives of two teenagers and unnecessary because because a safe trip home that night could have been virtually assured if the teenagers and/or their parents had used common sense -- the common sense which recognizes that teenagers out hours after they should be, and drinking during those hours, are often a fatal combination.

"How many more teenagers have to be killed before parents and teenagers will wake up to that dangerous reality and start taking sensible steps to avoid becoming victims of it."

Teens and parents need to clip Mr. Anderson's words and and put them on the refrigerator door. And -- of even greater importance -- young drivers and their parents need to have heart-to-heart talks, and a life-long understanding, that late hours and alcohol can, and often do, have tragic consequences.

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