During my two and a half decades as a police officer, I witnessed many tragedies, most of which were preventable.
An August 2019 The News Tribune article caused many of my fatality investigation memories to flood back into my conscious mind.
The article was titled, Lakewood teen charged with vehicular homicide. This awful story is about an 18 year old female being booked into jail for vehicular homicide. She is only 18, which is shockingly just 6 years beyond the kid age of 12. For me this young woman is too young to learn such a harsh life-lesson the hard way.
This teen’s decisions, which led to the death of her friend on I-5, created a negative trauma and terror impact on countless people for as long as they all shall live.
It is obvious to everyone the person who died is a victim.
What is not so obvious is the fact that there is a long list of friends and family of the deceased victim who are victims too. Additionally police officers, fire department personnel, witnesses, doctors, and nurses, who were involved in responding to the incident are all victims with an impact that can last for ever.
We expect first responders to do their jobs and they do so in a highly professional manner every day. What most citizens fail to realize is first responders are not only community helpers, they are victims too based on what they see, touch, smell, and hear as they work with victims and survivors of a tragic incident.
Lastly, in most cases, the person causing the tragedy, along with their family and friends are all victims.
Had I killed one of my friends like Larry, Dale, Drew, Ron, Tony, Anita, or Penny, all of whom rode in my car when I was a teen, the death-sentence I would have given my friend, would have ended up being an unmanageable life-sentence for me. I would still be serving my emotional and mental sentence 58 years after killing my friend because of my poor choices.
It is not my purpose to condemn or be cruel to the teen for her tragic choices made on this one fateful day.
The mistakes made by this teen are repeated daily by both genders and all races. Check out the LINK below that provides a long list of headlines announcing yet another teen whose decision making resulted in the death of others.
It is my theory there is a foundational problem that enables and promotes an unnecessary troublesome phenomenon that get’s little public notice. In fact the press, many politicians, and members of the public hide and ignore key facts that deserve our attention.
If someone of prominence and influence were to agree with my thought process and observations of life, and then be willing to put a spotlight on several cultural and behavioral issues, we would stand a chance of reducing or eliminating this kind of unnecessary tragedy. Better decision making and compliance with the rules of society can mean no injury, death, or prison.
As I drive through Lakewood, I can see deathly ghosts near specific power poles that mark death locations in our city.
One thing we can do to help teens, is to teach them life management values that will help them avoid INADVERTENT criminal activity that can lead to a troubled life and incarceration.
I say inadvertent. Teens drinking or drugging and driving is not the same as a purposeful criminal decision such as robbing a grocery store. Drinking or drugging and driving is like, “everybody does it.”, “I have never had a problem drinking and driving before.” “I do not want my friends to think I am a chicken because I refuse to drink and drive.” “That kind of trouble will never happen to me.”
To improve a teen’s chances for a successful life, one life value to embrace is for society to support rearing children in stable two parent families with a wholesome mother and a wholesome father present in the household.
Another point to consider is the positive value of attending church. We can argue about religion, but it is fair to say that many religious faiths instill quality life values in young people that can help successfully guide them in life.
We must teach young people to respect honest authority and to comply with the rules of society, as a life value.
Most teens already know: (1) it is against the law to consume alcohol under age 21. (2) It is against the law to possess or use marijuana or other illegal substances. (3) It is against the law to be impaired with alcohol and / or drugs while driving. (4) It is a bad choice to place yourself and friends in harms way by driving while impaired.
If most teens possess the requisite knowledge needed to stay out of trouble, why do so many fail?
In my opinion most fail because they were never taught to respect the righteous authority of parents, teachers, school principles, and the police. Young people fail to experience consequences for bad choices. Additionally, they never learned the value and benefit of compliance with lawful orders, rules and laws.
It may not be the teen’s fault if a parent, parents, friends, family and community fail to teach the teen to respect authority and to comply with societies rules.
It may not be the teen’s fault if the teen was taught to always think like a victim. Yes, this particular teen’s ancestors may have been kidnapped from Africa and brought to America as slaves in chains, but this teen has never been a slave herself, nor has she ever been in chains other than possibly being a slave to her own crippling thinking.
I have observed that there are differences in who may fall victim to my above described phenomenon based on gender, age, or race. There is a also a connection between what I am trying to describe and what is falsely touted as a racially discriminatory practice of incarcerating one race disproportionately over another race. Most critics focus on numbers and race, but do not focus on the behavior of that particular race. I submit there is a correlation.
If everyone of both genders and all races learn to respect authority and comply with societies rules, doing so will increase each person’s opportunity to enjoy happiness, life success, and to avoid tragedy and prison.
In the end, there is a simple solution. Parents, teachers, and society must teach teens life values. Teens must learn the difference between right and wrong. Teens must learn how to say no to bad choices. If teens are going to drink, they should drink responsibly. Drinking responsibly means more than just not spilling the drink. Teens, if you must drink and dope, do not drink, dope, and drive.
While I would like to see teens avoid illegal booze and dope, if they think they must cheat, then please, when you do so, put the steering wheel down.
The cases above involve a teen killing someone, which follows with the destruction of their own life.
Any teen who learns the easy way by following Joe Boyle’s unsolicited, but meaningful advice, will personally benefit by not destroying a friend and their own life.
Let’s teach life values.