Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Late-teen drivers a worry


Many of those killed in recent car crashes were at least 18

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

OXFORD - A state representative told a public forum on teen driving Tuesday that he is at a loss about what to do with older teen drivers who operate vehicles recklessly.

"I don't know what you do about that," Ohio Rep. Gary Cates, R-West Chester, told a group of about 30 people at the forum at Talawanda Middle School.

Cates said he is considering legislation that could affect laws governing younger teen drivers - ages 16 and 17.

But, he warned, "there is no single answer that is going to solve this."

Tuesday's forum was the fifth and last in a series hosted by Cates, law enforcement and court officials who have asked the public for help and ideas in an effort to lessen the number of teens killed in crashes. Since February, at least 16 Greater Cincinnati teens have died in crashes.

Talawanda has been hit especially hard this school yearHigh school students Doug Schuh, 18, was killed April 23; Benjamin Reece, 16, died Oct. 15, and Jason Farthing, 18, was killed Oct. 1.

And just last week, three teens ages 18 and 19, from nearby, died in car crashes.

Kyle Babcock and Barry Kilker, both 18, died in a Tennessee crash just days before they were to have graduated from Bishop Fenwick High School in Middletown. The cause of that crash remains under investigation.

Another area teen, Jon Gary, 19, of Middletown, was killed May 26 in a Lemon Township crash in which police said rain-slicked roads and excessive speed were factors.

Butler County Juvenile Court Judge David Neihaus said the deaths of the Talawanda students got his attention.

He said the first fatal crash last fall was bad enough, but "when the second one came and the third one came, I asked myself: 'What's going on?' "

Neihaus said that, in his 23 years as a judge, he could not remember a period in which more teens died in car crashes in such a short time.

He and police officers are working to do their part by cracking down on teen motorists who are ticketed with moving violations.

Neihaus said parents need to continue to be involved in monitoring their teenagers who drive.

Lou Bevilacquasaid he teaches driver's education classes to many Talawanda teens. He estimated that he has taught more than 5,000 students how to drive, but said he has seen only two parents attend a driver's training session with their children.

Bevilacqua said he is going to work to get parents more involved in driver's training.

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E-mail jmorse@enquirer.com




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