Youth op-ed: Adults must take responsible action, let teens feel safe on the roads

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I remember being very young and very interested in driving. Both of my siblings were a lot older than me so when they started driving I got to sit in the car during lessons. It was such an exciting time, and so from the age of 6 through 16, I’ve been biding my time until I could drive. Somewhere along the way myself and some friends joined our school’s SADD group that eventually became BPAC youth and led to our involvement in the MADD adoptive victim program.

We’ve been privileged enough to get to help two victims, the first of which we were lucky enough to meet and get to talk to. Her name was Sam, and she told us about her life and her family, and the accident that seriously hurt her. During this time my friends and I were young, most of us were 13 and 14 years old, and we started to really understand the depth of distracted driving. Around this time our group’s first trash cleanup arose, and we were distraught and amazed at just how many alcohol cans, bottles, and nips we found lying around the roads of our town. All of this was seeping in just as I was about to begin driving, and while I now have a license, the idea of driving at that point in my life was terrifying. I had learned so much about distracted driving and the accidents that come from it, and how it can happen to anyone. It was pretty nerve-wracking to imagine myself driving when all I could think of was dying in a fiery inferno. 

Then we got our next adopted victim in 2021, Amber Pelletier, a young woman who was killed in an accident, where her driver was highly intoxicated. We met with her mother, and discussed her life and the tragic event that ended it. Amber Pelletier was a junior at St. Leo University in Florida, she was majoring in psychology and minoring in education, hoping to become a counselor for hospitalized children. She was a champion dancer and had a very bright personality. Amber’s death occurred on May 5th, 2019. She was only 20 years old. Her third year anniversary has really affected the way I think about this kind of event. 

Drinking doesn’t make you a bad person; in fact drinking can be a totally normal part of adult life.  While drinking alcohol can be harmful, it doesn’t have to be as long as you – the adult – are safe, and have at least one other sober person around to babysit you and drive you somewhere. However, taking responsibility for your actions is also a part of adult life, and thus there must be an understanding that distracted driving/driving under the influence is a dangerous action, and can cause injury or death to yourself or others.

We don’t want teenagers to be scared of driving, and we need to end people getting injured on the roads. We want people to feel safe on the roads and we want people to be safe on the roads. 

Mary Chenot is a sophomore at Burrillville High School and has been in SADD and & BPAC Youth since the 6th grade

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