The Dangers of Teen Driving

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Along for the Ride

While many teens die from lack of training and experience, some perish as innocent passengers of their friends. In 2000 alone, 2,132 teens were killed while riding with another young driver.

That's what happened to Bryan, 19, and Mike Marvick, 16, of Corona, California. As best friends and brothers, "They were always together," says their mother, Chris Marvick, 47. On Labor Day 1998, the brothers went cruising with a close family friend, Nat Young, 16, and a new friend, Michael Murphy, 16.

At 3:30 a.m. the Marvicks' doorbell rang. Chris remembers bolting awake. When she opened the door, she was greeted by the Riverside County coroner. "He told me Mikey was dead and Bryan was in critical condition," she says. "I was stunned."

Chris later learned that on the way to a high-school party, Murphy, the driver, lost control of the car and crashed. Mike, the boy who was his mother's "cheerleader," and Murphy died instantly. Bryan died hours later on September 7 from severe brain trauma. Chris was holding his hand. "I promised him that he would never be forgotten," she says, "and that I would find out what happened so that it would never happen to anyone else."

When Chris began asking for answers about her sons' deaths, the police confirmed her worst fears. Toxicology tests showed that Murphy had marijuana in his bloodstream. (No drugs or alcohol were detected in Mike's or Bryan's systems.) The authorities also discovered that just before Murphy's car crashed, it had reached a speed of 100 mph.

Chris believes that her sons would never have ridden in the car had they known more about Murphy. "I wish I had asked more questions before they left that night," she says sadly. "I might have stopped them."

But even without the influences of drugs and alcohol, just getting into a car with another teen can be deadly. According to a recent study at the John Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, the more passengers a teenage driver has in his car, the more likely he will die in an accident. "That means if your teen is carting his three friends around town, he has a pretty good chance of getting into a crash," says Rose McMurray. "As a mother of a teen, that scares me to death."

Continued on page 4:  Putting Safety First


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