Submitted by: Jerry Assa
Brian was an unbelievable person. He touched everyone who knew him, and to know him was to love him. Brian was the kid that all his friends’ parents liked. He was helping so many people with their problems and never wanted anything in return. A friend always said Brian would marry her daughter and be her son-in-law. He was very popular. He wanted to go to the University of North Carolina and wanted to be either a math teacher or an accountant. Brian also wanted to have three children and go on vacation to Israel with me.
One night, Brian and three other friends were sleeping at a friend’s house. The boys decided to go visit another friend. They were playing a road race video game just before they left. The teenage boy who owned the vehicle the boys planned to use said he wanted to see how fast his car could go. Two of the boys tried to talk the driver out of speeding in the vehicle, but neither Brian nor the driver would listen. Finally, the two boys who did not want to participate agreed to watch for traffic while Brian and the driver got into the car. Originally Brian was the passenger but somehow he and the driver switched places while driving.
Brian, who had only had his permit for three months, lost control of the vehicle. The car bounced off an underpass wall three times, knocked down an electrical pole and hit a tree, where it came to rest. I received a phone call at 1:52 a.m. and a hysterical boy on the other end told me Brian and his friend had been in a horrible crash. It all went downhill from there.
The police would not let anyone near the car because a live electrical line was dangling from the pole Brian had hit. When we finally got to the car, a police officer told me the driver was killed on impact and the passenger was in critical condition. We thought at the time that Brian’s friend was the driver, but when they cut the car open with the jaws of life and removed the injured boy, it all got worse. They went through the boy’s pockets, pulled out his license and saw that it was not my son who was injured, but his friend. That meant that MY BOY, MY SON, BRIAN, was DEAD. I collapsed to the ground and cried uncontrollably.
I knew about driving regulations and laws and tried to set a good example for many years before Brian got his permit. A week before the crash, I took Brian on the highway when there was very little traffic to show him the difference between the car’s reaction time at highway speeds versus street speeds. Afterward, I told him he wasn’t ready for highway driving. Parents need to set rules for their teens and make sure they are comfortable with their teens skills before allowing them to take a road test. Parents should not give teens unlimited access to the vehicle, either. Remember, 1 in 3 teen drivers will have a crash during their first year of driving. My hope is they all will be minor.
I have been to Washington D.C. to speak with politicians and lawmakers where I have shared Brian’s story. I have done radio and TV interviews and have been named a hero on Long Island by Verizon TV for the work I do to improve teen driver safety. We created the Think First Foundation, Inc., and through it I do presentations at high schools across Long Island. I explain to teens that a moment of excitement is not worth the possible disastrous and deadly results. Teens need to think not just about themselves but about others who can be affected by their actions.
Children learn from their parents. Even when they are young, they pick up driving habits from the way their parents drive. Parents, please set a good example. Save some lives.