Speaking of Young Men and Cars

I call them “the vultures,” my son and his friends. They descend on our kitchen, inhaling anything edible, speaking in a cacophony of adolescent male egos, leaving scraps and bones scattered about before flocking to the next house to see what’s in the ‘fridge.

They have a great appetite for life, these boys-on-their-way-to-becoming-men. They talk about soccer and girls and haircuts and shoes … OMG, they are obsessed with shoes.

Last Wednesday, they swooped in after I had spent more than two hours preparing a dinner of pork adobo and lumpia— a far cry from my son’s friend’s Filipino grandma’s cooking, but I do what I can to lure them briefly. In the five minutes it took for them to consume the meal, they chatted about girls and soccer and shoes … and the crash. Just down the road, there’s a gash in a tree, the site of an accident that took the life of the 18-year-old driver, Michael James Adams, not far from his family’s home.

My son yearns for his learner’s permit. He looks at cars as we pass by and says, “I could drive that.” Anything but a truck, like his dad’s, or a van, like mine, preferably something low and sleek, red or black.

“What’s the hurry?” I say. “You have a perfectly decent bike and two personal chauffeurs.”

I’d rather he stick with shoes.

When his older brother, now 25, was about to be born, my husband anxiously asked the doctor, “What’s the most dangerous time?” The doctor replied, “When he gets his license.”

We used to laugh about that. That doctor, what a card.

On Saturday, I reported on the death of another 18-year-old. Mark S. Schroeder Jr. of Fontana, Calif., a sailor at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, was driving southbound in his black 2008 Hyundai Tiburon when he hit the highway’s jersey barrier near the turnoff to Belfair, lost control of the car and struck a power pole. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Passengers in the car, who escaped with non-life-threatening injuries, told Washington State Patrol troopers Schroeder had recently acquired the car.

I shared the story with my son, selfishly using the tragedy as a cautionary tale. The cause of the crash is unclear. Drugs and alcohol were ruled out as factors. Excessive speed was not mentioned in the WSP report. It would be easy to speculate, but also fruitless.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, accounting for more than one in three deaths in this age group.

* In 2008, nine teens ages 16 to 19 died every day on U.S. roadways from motor vehicle injuries.

* Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than older drivers to crash.

* In 2008,  about 3,500 teens in the United States ages 15 to 19 were killed, and more than 350,000 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor-vehicle crashes.

Our condolences to the families of the young men who died.

Chris Henry, Kitsap Sun reporter

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