COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Teen safety on the road subject of town hall meeting

Leading North County community outreach efforts on public health issues about prescription drug abuse and teen safety, Scripps hospital recently joined with La Costa Canyons’ Teens for Teen Safety club and San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth to sponsor the town hall meeting on distracted driving, drunk driving and prescription drug overdose Dec. 3 at La Costa Canyon High School.
Teens for Teen Safety, founded by LCC mom Jennifer Riggs, is dedicated to promoting awareness of teen safety issues at the school. The panel presentation focused on the consequences of teen drinking, driving and drug abuse with the goal of raising family awareness and creating opportunities to discuss these issues among parents and teens.
Dr. Andrew Accardi, a Scripps emergency room physician, spoke about the physical and emotional aspects of treating multiple victims of teen car crashes and the long-lasting effects he sees in survivors trying to cope with depression on repeat visits to the Emergency Department.
Dr. Eric Wardrip shared how his 16-year old son Will was killed in a recent deadly, reckless car crash last year in Fairbanks Ranch. Sheriff’s deputies reports indicated that Will, a passenger in the car, was the only one not wearing a seat belt.
Chelsea Hill, now 19, of Pacific Grove, told how she became paralyzed last February after she was involved in a crash when riding home from a party where both she and the driver were drinking. Aaron Rubin, now a quadraplegic who uses a wheelchair and raises one finger to signify yes or no to communicate, told his story through his mother Sherrie. Aaron, a 2000 graduate of Poway High School, suffered a heart attack and stroke after overdosing on Oxycontin.
Sixty percent of teens admit to risky driving, according to national surveys. “As a community we need to model good behavior, provide safe alternatives if a driver or passenger does not feel safe to drive, and continually remind our kids that the energy and enthusiasm of youth may entice kids to make unsafe driving decisions,” Dr. Accardi said.
Hundreds of students and their parents heard the presentation. “A very powerful evening,” was how one North County father of two teenage daughters described the evening. It really struck home as a parent of teenagers. The combination of advice, wisdom and unfortunate knowledge of victims’ parents and the victims themselves was educational and beneficial for me as a parent, and for my teenager daughter to hear.
In affluent North County, we as parents need to do better jobs. We may not be able to keep our kids out of trouble 100 percent of the time, but we can reduce the risks. We need to learn to say no, and help our kids to say no,” added Mike Polan, who attended the evening with his daughter, a senior at LCC, and a member of Teens for Teen Safety.
“Scripps is deeply invested in the public safety of teens in our community,” said Judi Strang of San Dieguito Alliance. Scripps recently joined community efforts in the recent countywide Prescription Drug Take Back Day, when Scripps collected 1,000 pounds of prescription drugs at several Scripps sites.

Nancy Perry-Sheridan, MSW, is a prevention specialist with San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth.

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