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Parents of teens killed in traffic accidents tell their stories

Published October 24, 2012 10:35 pm

"We remember" • Campaign meant to educate teen drivers.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Sandy • Erin Worland's heart sank when she heard the sirens shortly after her 13-year-old son left for school. But she told herself not to worry.

"I prayed so hard that it wasn't him," she said. Then she saw Collin's blue-and-black shoes near the pool of blood in the crosswalk.

She ran to him, saying "I need you to pull through." But the boy had been fatally hit by a 19-year-old driver, who was high on marijuana.

Collin died a year ago on Nov. 2, and there's still a cloud over the Worland family's lives, she said: "There's the sense of happiness just disappearing…things just aren't as they should be."

Worland agreed to tell her story Wednesday as part of "We remember every day," a state effort to encourage teens to be careful drivers. The event brought together several grieving Utah parents, as well as emergency responders.

Wednesday morning, another name was added to the list of Utah teens killed in automobile accidents in a death tragically similar to that of Collin Worland. Fourteen-year-old Edwin Cardoso was walking in a crosswalk on 600 North, headed to class at West High School, when he was hit by a truck driven by a 19-year-old.

When she heard that news, Worland said, "I felt like I wanted to rush over to wherever his parents are and shield them from the grief."

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for teens ages 13 to 19 in Utah. Fatal crashes involving teenagers are three times more likely to have a contributing factor, such as speed or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, according to the Utah Department of Health. And the number of teens killed in auto-pedestrian crashes increased over the last two years, from one in 2010 to five in 2011, according to the Utah Highway Safety Office.

Along with the Utah Department of Transportation, state health officials are trying to reduce the number of kids killed on the road. Every year since 2008, officials have published a booklet detailing the lives of the teenagers killed in traffic accidents and distributed it at driver's education classes, hoping to convince young drivers to be cautious.

There is a particular focus on seat belt use. Of the teens killed last year, only 25 percent were wearing seat belts, said Robert Hull, director of traffic and safety for UDOT.

"Seventeen teens could still be with us if they were wearing seat belts," he said.

Still, the effort appears to be helping: The number of teens killed has dropped 30 percent since 2008, to 23 last year.

That's 23 too many for Worland, who said she hopes sharing her story will help prevent more deaths. She's also part of a project to create Because I'm Awesome Day on Nov. 2, which is named for a sometimes-sarcastic phrase her son would often use (as in: Question: "Why are your shoes in the middle of the floor?" Answer: "Because I'm awesome.") The phrase is now on his headstone.

"It's a day for people to feel good about themselves in honor of Collin," Worland said. "Everyone is awesome in their own way."

lwhitehurst@sltrib.com

Twitter: @lwhitehurst —

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Find tips about safe driving for teens at http://www.dontdrivestupid.com.