Ohio crash a cautionary tale for parents of teens
BY BETH J. HARPAZ, Associated Press
NEW YORK -- There were lies told to parents, a car with five seats carrying eight teens, and an unlicensed driver. The car was speeding. No seat belts were used.
If parents of teenagers need a real-life cautionary tale to sum up all their warnings and fears, surely the crash of a stolen car in Warren, Ohio, that killed six teenagers is it.
"You heard about that story?" Daniel Flannery, an Ohio father of three teens, asked his kids as news of the tragedy filtered out. "This could happen to you. It's horrible. These kids are not coming home. I don't want you to be that person."
Mario Almonte of Queens, N.Y., said he and his wife talked to their teenage son -- who's on the verge of getting his driver's license -- about it, too. "We pointed to this tragedy and mentioned that he shouldn't think something like this can never happen to him," said Almonte. "Sometimes it just takes one bad decision to end in tragedy."
Unfortunately, car crashes with multiple teen deaths are not uncommon. Five teens died in a Texas crash Tuesday; three died in Indiana last week, and four died in a California crash last month.
But one aspect of the Ohio story may be especially compelling to parents involved in the usual battles with teens about where they're going, who they're with, and when they're coming home: Some of the kids misled their parents as to their whereabouts.
The father of one of the dead said the teenagers were coming home from a sleepover at a friend's house, but the mother of another boy killed said her son and his best friend had lied about staying over at each other's homes that evening. She said she thinks they went to a party.
"If only he had listened," said Lisa Williamson, mother of 14-year-old Brandon Murray.
"It's an age-old thing for teens to tell their folks they're going to do one thing and they're doing another," said Daniel Flannery, a psychologist who teaches at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
He even admits that his own children, "while very good kids and excellent students, sometimes do things they know we won't approve of and they mislead us." And he notes that like most parents of teens, he's gotten his share of calls from other parents asking, "Is my son at your house?"
But while teenagers lying to parents is nothing new, the deadly outcome in this case is drawing attention.
"Any time a tragedy like this occurs, while you don't want to go overboard on the sensationalism, it is a teachable moment. It has to be," said Flannery, who also runs Case Western's Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education.