SALT LAKE CITY — It's Teen Safe Driving Week, and a group of Utah parents who lost their children to traffic accidents have teamed up to spread the word about the importance of safety behind the wheel — especially when it comes to new drivers.
The parents' tragic accounts have been published in a book released Wednesday called "Unfinished Stories." A new version of the book has been released annually for the past six years by UDOT and the Utah Department of Health.
Lucinda Campbell is among the parents who contributed. Campbell lost her 17-year-old son Tyler in 2010. He and his best friend were returning home from a getaway to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. They drove all night because Tyler needed to be at work the next morning. Tyler's friend Darren was driving and apparently fell asleep.
"I don't think they ever woke up," Campbell said. "They say he died instantly."
In 2012, 21 teenagers died in traffic accidents on Utah roads, and auto crashes are the No. 1 cause of death for teens in the U.S.
Campbell hopes telling her story will help decrease these sobering statistics.
"We as parents, always, every time your teenager leaves the house, it's 'Buckle up. Don't text and drive. Don't drive reckless. Don't drink and drive. Don't go to a party and get into the car with someone who's been drinking. Don't drive impaired.' But you hardly ever say 'Don't drive drowsy,' " Campbell said.
It can happen so fast. They don't understand. They look away for a minute. They get distracted with their friends. They get a text. It's not worth it.
Robert and Tracy Lindley's son, Zachery, was hit by a car while skateboarding without a helmet.
"It's devastating," said Robert. "And I want every child and every parent that sees this to understand the devastating impact that it has to not have your child wear a helmet."
Mason Sheeran lost her twin sister Malone in a single-car rollover. Malone was not wearing a seat belt, which is common in teen vehicle fatalities.
"It's important to me and my family to prevent other families from feeling the losses that we felt," Sheeran said.
The stories don't have happy endings, but that's the point. The families hope tales about young lives cut short will resonate with teens.
"It can happen so fast," Campbell said. "They don't understand. They look away for a minute. They get distracted with their friends. They get a text. ... It's not worth it."