Kara Sewell: Buckle up for Tanner - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Kara Sewell: Buckle up for Tanner

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Today, my cousin Tanner Sue would have been 25. Tragically, the fair-haired teen who excelled at athletics, was the President of the National Honor Society and member of the FFA didn't live to turn 18. The article printed in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal wrote this:

“Lockney High School's prom night turned tragic when two Floydada teenagers were killed in a car accident early Sunday morning. Dylan Thomas, 15, and Tanner Sue, 17, were killed in a roll-over accident when Nolan Armstrong, 18, lost control of his 2002 Chevrolet
pickup and flipped into the ditch around 5 a.m. on County Road 91 west of Floydada, Texas Department of Public Safety officials said.”

I report on these types of accidents nearly every week. It's familiar police jargon, but when it happens to your family, it's the furthest thing from familiar. It's unsettling because the people involved in that accident are so much more than an age. When my dad called me I couldn't be more stunned; I had spoken to Tanner a few months earlier and he was talking about graduation and college.

I attended his funeral and the emotions I felt caught me off guard. I didn't know Tanner that well; I was several years older and we grew up hours a part. As cliché as it sounds, the kid had everything going for him. And talk about a personality! They showed a rap video he made with his friends, earlier that year, at the service and it made the crowd of nearly 500 people smile. I remember thinking, "How could this happen to someone like him? Wouldn't it be a better end for a vicious criminal?" 

My parent's always told me ‘life is not fair' and no truer words fit this situation. I remember vividly hugging his parents and brother like I had times before at Christmas or visiting during summer vacation. The entire day was surreal until we left his grave site and then it sunk in. Tanner was not coming home.

Soon we learned how he died, he and his friends were thrown from the vehicle, four of the five teens in the truck were ejected and none of them had on a seat belt. The driver (and only person wearing a seat belt) had minor injuries. Playing the ‘what if' game is a slippery slope but you can't help but wonder ‘what if' he was wearing his seat belt? Would he still be here?

I share this story not only because I'm proud to caller Tanner a cousin but as a message I hope you will share. The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is the deadliest for drivers ages 15-20, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Traffic safety experts attribute the higher crash rates for teens to having more free time under less parental supervision, more opportunities to drive at night when road risks are higher, and parent-enforced curfews may be relaxed. And a big reason these crashes are fatal is a lack of safety belt use.

There are ways you can help reduce this number. The Traffic Safety Administration encourages you (parents, guardians) to talk to your kids about the increased risk during the summer-- and talk often. They also suggest coming up with some ways with your teen to increase safety while driving. Also, include restrictions on who is riding in the car with your teen and even a curfew. Finally, come up with a parent/teen driving agreement and put it somewhere visible, so every time they hit the road they're reminded. Sadly, there is no way to prevent every incident but we can try. I truly wish you all a safe summer. And remember Tanner Sue next time you buckle up.

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