Retired Gwinnett County police officer speaks to students about teen driving
By Ann Cantrell
Bill Richardson, president of the non-profit organization "It Won’t Happen to Me," spoke at Morgan County High School last Thursday about what his organization calls "the silent tragedy."
He implored the students to avoid this silent tragedy, teen car crashes, which are the number one cause of teen deaths.
Teen car crashes are referred to as the silent tragedy because the number of deaths is rarely talked about or reported on in the news.
“We’ve lost 4000 troops in Iraq. We’ve been inundated with that number. A number we are not inundated with but we should be is the number of teenage deaths from car crashes,” said Richardson.
Since the United States entered Iraq, 27,000 teenagers have died in car wrecks, said Richardson.
Richardson is a retired Gwinnett County police officer who dealt with many deaths related teenagers driving. Eventually he was approached by a woman and asked what could be done to stop all of these car wrecks.
Now, Richardson travels around to different schools educating students on what they can do to prevent becoming one of these statistics.
Most accidents can be easily prevented, said Richardson, and less than 25 percent of them are related to drug use or alcohol intake. The majority of them are caused by inexperience and not paying attention to the road.
Richardson implored the students to be a good role model to their friends by making them buckle up when they get their car.
“You need to set the example—you need to be the leader and not the follower,” said Richardson.
The organization, “It Won’t Happen to Me,” attempts to warn teenagers and parents about the consequences of not setting a good example. Last Thursday, Richardson warned the students that there are many consequences to teen deaths within a family.
There are statistics for both suicide and divorce amongst parents who lost a child in a car wreck said Richardson. He continued on to say many parents feel a great deal of responsibility for their child’s death and sometimes divorce between the parents, or even suicide is the final result.
While at the school, the president of “It Won’t Happen to Me,” went over several instances of teen deaths, including Kirby Celeste Croce, who convinced her parents to let her drive to a party after she had been driving for a fairly short time. After consuming some alcohol and driving home, Croce was involved in a wreck.
Her main mistake, Richardson said, was buckling in the seatbelt, but moving the upper strap to behind her back. When she was less than two miles from home, she died in a car wreck.
For her family though, the pain of that day continues. Richardson said that the father had to identify his daughter from a poloroid photograph, and that he believes that the father will always remember that photograph.
For more information, visit the Web site, www.itwonthappentome.org.