The holidays mean parties and time off from school, and that means extra danger for teen drivers. One group of grieving parents is trying to spread the message of safe driving.
On East Street in Wolcott, the banners are still up, flowers still on the ground, not that Donna Jenner needs to be reminded what happened there.
“We re-live it every time we tell our story and we tell it graphically, on purpose,” Jenner said.
Her story is that she lost both her children, 17 year-old Anthony and 14 year-old Jessica. Jessica’s friend Thamara Correa also died in the awful crash in October 2007. Anthony was going too fast, hit a boat trailer and lost control. Donna tells that story – graphically – at schools around the state, as part of !MPACT – Mourning Parents Act.
“We just go and we speak from the heart and we tell them, for us this day started out a day like any other,” Jenner said.
A lot has changed in the 11 years since Donna Jenner’s children were killed in that crash. For one thing, the state has instituted graduated licenses. That has kept teen drivers safer, but on the other hands, kids are far more dependent on their cellphones than ever before.
“And that’s probably a lot of the distraction that’s out there is text messaging,” said !MPACT member Kathleen McGirr. “It’s too important. It’s the way society is today is that cellphone is their lifeline.”
McGirr knows because she works in a high school. On her ID lanyard is a picture of her son Dustin, killed in a car crash two years ago.
“So I think sometimes they think twice when they get in the car because I ‘m there in the parking lot with the kids who have their licenses,” McGirr said. “So I do think they think twice.”
Unlike with the mock crashes and the police lectures teen drivers get every year, !MPACT tell kids exactly what a grieving parent goes through
“They’ll come to us after and they look at us and say, ‘Wow, that could be my mom up there,'” said Jenner.
Even though it takes a toll on these moms, they continue to warn young drivers of what could happen if they are not safe drivers.
“Because we want them to see exactly what we had to go through,” Jenner said. “But if we reach even one teen, it’s worth it.”
They are doing their best to reach as many as possible, visiting high schools and driving schools, and working with St Francis Hospital’s “Let’s not meet by accident” program.