By Sarah Garner and Kendal Phillips –
“It won’t happen to me.”
Following the horrific tragedy that struck Manheim Central School District Jan. 16, Penn Manor students had a chance to reflect on how this accident will affect their future behavior. Will they take a lesson from the lives lost?
When four Manheim Central football players left their team breakfast early Sunday morning, they were unaware of the upcoming two-car crash that would end the lives of ninth-grader DeVaughn Lee, tenth-graders Nicolas Bryson and Cody Hollinger, and eleventh-grader John Griffith.
The crash occurred at 11:28 a.m. on Mount Wilson Road, in South Londonderry Township according to Lancasteronline.com.
Police said the teens were traveling south on Mount Wilson Road when the driver, who has not been identified, lost control of the car. It skidded sideways into the northbound lane hitting another car occupied by two people. Police said the driver and the passenger in the other car were taken to Hershey Medical Center, where they were listed in stable condition.
“A lot of people avoid that road now. If I, or my friends travel on (Mount Wilson Rd) we normally break down crying,” said Phil Wubbolt a junior, the school mascot, and basketball player at Manheim Central High School.
Three of the Manheim Central teens were pronounced dead at the scene by a representative from the Lebanon County Coroner’s Office. The fourth teen was taken to Hershey Medical Center, where he later died from his injuries.
According to RMIIA, an insurance information site, about two out of every three teenagers killed in a motor vehicle accident are males and eighty-one percent of teenage motor vehicle crash deaths in 2008 were passenger vehicle occupants.
“You have people to back you up, they motivate you to do stuff,” said junior Aaron Vickers.
Statistics also show that 16-17 year-old-driver death rates increase with each additional passenger.
“When people I know are behind me I drive faster to impress them,” said senior Robin Green.
The statistics should be a warning for teens to be particularly careful when passengers with young males as drivers or when a group gets together for an activity. But that doesn’t always happen. Penn Manor’s School Resource Officer, Jason Hottenstein, said he is aware that teens brag about some high-risk behaviors.
“(A common road for speeding in Lancaster County is) route 30 or 283, but at least its on a highway,” said Penn Manor’s, Officer Jason Hottenstein.
According to The New York Times, psychologists at Temple University used functional magnetic resonance imaging scans on forty teenagers and adults to figure out if there are differences in brain activity when young teens are alone driving versus a car occupied by friends. After doing multiple studies, the results suggested that teenage peer pressure has a definite effect on brain signals involving risks and rewards, which explains why some teens are more likely to misbehave and take risks when their peers are with them.
“I drive safe, I just don’t drive the speed limit,” said Penn Manor senior Nate Kreider, echoing a common response from teens at Penn Manor.
Do teens learn from their peers mistakes? Or do they figure “it won’t happen to me?”
“I don’t really speed anymore and when I see a hill or a corner I notice I slow down more than I would have before,” said Wubbolt.
Streeter Stuart, a history teacher at Penn Manor, made it a point to talk to his classes about the Manheim crash. He wanted to ensure that his students learn from the four boys’ mistake.
“What people don’t appreciate when they are being reckless, etc; is how much their actions can impact other people,” Stuart told his classes.
Stuart explained to his classes that an accident such as this will always be remembered in the surrounding communities, especially when a similar accident occurs.
“You don’t learn from others’ experiences, you learn from your own,” said Stuart, “and sometimes yours is what kills you.”
Stuart, who is also the freshman football coach, went along with some football players and head coach, Todd Mealy, to be at the Manheim boys’ viewing.
“What they did has in some small way lessened the lives of thousand of people because people are impacted by their actions,” said Stuart.
Dr. Steinberg, who also helped with the studies at Temple University, thinks parents should be aware that groups of teenagers need close supervision.
“All of us who have very good kids know they’ve done really dumb things when they’ve been with their friends,” said Steinberg. “The lesson is that if you have a kid whom you think of as a very mature and able to exercise good judgment, based on your observations when he or she is alone with you, that doesn’t necessarily generalize to how he or she will behave in a group of friends without adults around. Parents should be aware of that.”