Speaker brings home statistics for North Dakota’s teen drivers
Hazelton-Moffit-Braddock School students heard Tyler Presnell’s story last week during a safe driving presentation sponsored by the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT).
The NDDOT has provided resources to develop a new safety program centered on teens, called “Think About It.” The “Think About It” slogan and associated activity was developed by a youth committee consisting of four students from Bismarck High School and Century High School.
The committee decided on the “Think About It” slogan to urge teens to think about their actions rather than simply telling them what, or what not, to do. The goal of the initiative is to decrease the number of crashes and fatalities involving teens on North Dakota roadways.
Tyler spoke to students at Wishek, Ashley, Hope, Carrington, Cavalier, Jamestown, Valley City, Hebron, New Salem, Bowbells, Towner, and Trinity Christian/Garden Valley in Williston recently. He visited with H-M-B students last week Tuesday.
NDDOT Program Manager Carol Thurn introduced Tyler, stating that North Dakota teenagers represent only six percent of all licensed drivers (60 of every 1,000 drivers are teenagers) in the state yet out of those six percent, 22 percent are involved in car crashes. Out of that 22 percent, 16 percent are involved in fatal crashes.
“Either you are dying on the road or someone else is dying on the road because of a car crash,” she told the students. “We don’t want you to be over-represented. We want to keep our teens alive, keep you driving and becoming productive citizens.”
The one-car crash happened on a clear day in Vancouver, Wash., near Columbia River High School in 1999. Tyler, his 14-year old twin brother, and their younger sister were picked up by the 16-year-old (the families were close friends) who was taking them to his home. The distance they drove was approximately one mile. They crashed into a telephone pole going 80 mph. The dashboard broke and flew over the driver’s head. Tyler’s sister and brother and the 16-yearold were able to crawl from the crushed vehicle. Tyler’s brother was not injured. The driver spent four days in the hospital because of bruises. His sister had multiple broken bones and was released from the hospital three weeks later. Tyler’s internal organs were severely damaged. He had broken ribs, a shattered hip, broken femur, part of his right leg was paralyzed and he suffered serious brain damage. Nearly four months later, Tyler was released from the hospital, his short-term memory forever gone. He said he has no recollection of his life before the crash. Even now he has a hard time functioning. He had surgery number 22 a year and a half ago.
But Tyler’s story wasn’t the “feel sorry for me” story you would expect from someone who has had so much taken from him. He said that one day he looked in the mirror and thought there’s nothing he could do to change, so what could he do now to help his life and other people’s lives. And then it came to him. Respect The Journey. He would dedicate his life and make it his mission to educate young people on the need to love and be respectful, appreciative and to show common courtesy, not only on the road but in their daily lives.
“Crazy things happen in life,” Tyler told the students. “You guys are young and somewhat naive to the world right now, and some of you may think ‘the way it is is the way it is’ ...and that’s not the way it is. Any of you can change anything you want changed in your lives.”
He spoke with an intensity that captured his audience. “You guys can do anything you want in life,” he told them. And Tyler appears to be living proof of that.
On his web site, Tyler states: Our society is wrapped up in negativity! You don’t need to be.