Rumford Police Chief Stacy Carter recently told a Sun Journal reporter that some parents still consider drinking parties a rite of passage for young people.
We wonder how many still think so after the early Saturday morning accident that killed two young people and injured two others.
Rebecca Mason, a 16-year-old sophomore at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, and Logan Dam, 19, a former student there, were killed when a car operated by another teenager left the road and flew roof-first into a stand of trees.
The two teens were in the back seat of a car operated by Kristina Lowe, 18, who police say had been drinking at a nearby home and was sending a text message while driving.
Another passenger in the car, Jacob Skaff, 22, was also injured in the crash.
If teen drinking is a rite of passage, it is a rite that isn’t complete without caskets and graveside services.
And that is exactly the point of an elaborate program that Chief Carter, emergency responders and Mountain Valley High School are undertaking to make sure parents and students cannot miss the dangers of drinking and driving.
The national program is called “Every 15 Minutes,” reflecting the fact that every quarter-hour in this country someone dies in an alcohol-related traffic accident.
In May, 25 local high school students and their parents will participate in what seems like a shockingly painful bit of theater.
Each student’s parents will be notified by police or clergy that their son or daughter has been killed in an alcohol-related traffic accident.
The volunteer parents and their “living dead” student will then go through the emotional trauma of writing obituaries, attending a funeral and other gut-wrenching events that follow such tragedies.
“This is a powerful program that affects students and the community,” Carter said. “I hear too much that some parents believe it’s a rite of passage, that it’s OK. It’s not.”
Carter expects to get some complaints about the program, but he thinks the benefits will be worth offending a few people.
“It is dramatic, but it’s our best way to get the community talking,” he said. “These kids will talk about it. The community will be abuzz. If that’s what it takes to change the culture, I think we need that.”
Right now, that buzz should be all too real in Western Maine.
Police say the driver in Saturday’s crash was at a party at a home in West Paris. After the accident, she was able to walk back to that party, where she was later found by police and an ambulance crew.
If any adults supplied the alcohol these teens were drinking, or allowed this party to occur, we hope they spend a long time behind bars contemplating their roles in these deaths.
Let’s spread that “buzz” to anyone who condones or hosts these parties.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.