DEAR ABBY: My letter concerns a beautiful 17-year-old girl. She was the apple of her father's eye, one of my daughter's closest friends. She was popular and enjoyed sports. She had a bright future ahead of her.
She, her boyfriend and another couple opted for a nice dinner and a party instead of attending the homecoming dance. At some point during the evening, these kids made a tragic mistake -- alcohol became a part of the "fun."
The police said alcohol, excessive speed and wet pavement led to the terrible crash. The car hit two trees at nearly 60 mph, and this lovely young girl died at the scene. Her boyfriend is paralyzed. The 18-year-old driver of the car died the following morning. They had dropped off another teenager just minutes before the crash. She didn't realize until morning that the ambulance she heard wail by her bedroom window was for her friends.
I wish every teen would see what I witnessed at the funeral -- the grief-stricken father, the mother in shock, other family members numb with disbelief. Maybe it would save some lives. We as parents could offer little comfort to our devastated children. Half the high school was there, not a dry eye in the place. Many teens seemed on the verge of collapse.
This calamity is repeated every year in this country. It has to stop.
Teens: I BEG you. Please don't drink and drive or ride with anyone who has been drinking.
Parents: Promise your children that while you don't condone underage drinking, a safe ride home is just a phone call away -- night or day. Assure them that this ride comes without lecture or punishment of any kind.
So many lives will never be the same. The grieving families will never fully recover. Please, Abby, print this letter as a warning. Life is fragile. Life is precious. Don't waste it -- don't take chances. -- MOURNING IN THE U.S.A.
DEAR MOURNING: My deepest sympathy to all of the families who were affected by this senseless tragedy.
Teens who do not drink credit their families as the biggest influence for making that intelligent choice. Youth whose parents discuss alcohol (and drug) use with them -- regularly, knowledgeably and specifically -- are less likely to engage in substance abuse than teens whose parents say little or nothing about the subject. Knowing your children's activities and friends, and the parents of their friends, is also important.
I urge every parent and other adult caregivers to ask the government's National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information for a free copy of the booklet "Keeping Youth Drug Free." It can be obtained by calling toll-free: 1-800-729-6686. (It can also be read online at www.health.org.)
With more than 2,200 young people ages 16 to 20 dying in alcohol-related crashes every year, we must make a greater effort to prevent this waste of human life.
To my young readers: Please don't shrug this off. Make smart choices, because if you don't -- it CAN happen to you.