The Day Our Lives Changed Forever

My son, Christopher, died in November of 2006, as a result of a one car accident, ten days before his 18th birthday. He was driving, and by our rules, did not have anyone else in the car with him. He also did not have his cell phone with him--I had taken it from him that afternoon. He was upset about that action, and left the house despondent after eating dinner with the family. He took the car keys without asking permission (something he had never done before), and took off for the nearby four-lane highway. Some of his friends during school lunches had shared that when they were upset, they would "take off" up the four-lane as fast as they could go, and by the time they went about 10 miles or so, they would calm down and be able to return.

We will never know if that was the thought in his mind that night, but he certainly headed out in the direction that they had described. From eyewitness reports, he was driving too fast for conditions--it was dark, pouring rain, and had been raining heavily for several hours. He passed an 18-wheeled tractor trailer, but when he cleared its overspray, there were two vehicles directly in front of him: one in the passing lane, and one in the "slow" lane. From the reports of others who drove that section of the highway that night, his vehicle must have entered the portion of road where these others reported experiencing hydroplaning due to an excessive build-up of water lying on the road surface. Apparently he could not slow down, so he tried to swerve to get to the right-hand shoulder of the road, but ended up going up over the guardrail and airborne onto the shoulder of the upcoming overpass. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident due to blunt force trauma to the head and neck area.

He was driving a 2004 Toyota Avalon, was wearing his seatbelt, both the front and side airbags deployed according to the State Police, and both the front windshield and driver's side window glass had no cracks or indications of impact on them--they were totally intact. We had purchased that particular vehicle due to its high ratings in crash testing, knowing that our soon-to-be driving teenaged sons needed the best protection we could afford to provide. Apparently it was not enough. We still do not understand why he died if both the air bags deployed and there was not a mark on either piece of glass.