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NK Boosters ‘band’ together for teen driving safety

Reverberations of two fatal teenage car accidents occurring three weeks apart in February and March are still commonplace throughout the North Kitsap community.

They come in the form of conversations between parents and their children, the former of whom advise the latter to drive safely. They echo in the thoughts and conversations of many North Kitsap High School students, as well as in all of the North End, who regularly think of Miles Pendergraft and Kyle Sizemore, the two teens who died tragically.

And soon, a new movement by the North Kitsap High School Athletic Boosters will attempt to both memorialize the teens and remind drivers to practice sound driving skills.

It is summed up in one word: “Remember.” That simple verbiage has been inscribed onto purple wristbands, reminiscent of the commonly worn “Livestrong” bands made popular by cyclist Lance Armstrong. The boosters will sell the bands for $2 at sporting events and at lunches at the high school in the next few weeks.

The idea was raised by Poulsbo Junior High School teacher and coach Lee Hodin.

“Last summer, I was definitely one of those people wearing Lance Armstrong bracelets,” Hodin said. “The kids started wearing them this year and I thought it was time we had one we could really get behind.”

The boosters were enthusiastic about the idea, as they’d been trying to find a way to be “proactive” for some time, said boosters’ secretary Marcy Salo.

“We thought, ‘We could keep making donations or we can think of something to do,’” Salo recalled. “We couldn’t just sit there.”

The boosters hope that when teens wear the wristbands, they’ll bear in mind that the roads can be a highly dangerous place, said North Kitsap Athletic Boosters President Kathy Felix.

“We hope that it causes kids to stop and think when they get in the car and to not practice bad habits,” Felix said. “We also hope parents will help their kids to have safe driving habits.”

The accidents in North Kitsap this year, from Pendergraft’s and Sizemore’s deaths to multiple fatalities at the Bond Road and Gunderson intersection, have no doubt raised the level of driver awareness in the area. But the statistics statewide and nationally are equally tragic.

Automobile accidents are the No. 1 cause of death in children and young adults aged 15-20 in the United States, according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

Teens are also less likely to buckle up. Almost half of all car occupants aged 11-19 who died in an accident weren’t wearing seatbelts. In recent years, about 25 percent of all fatal accidents were caused by drivers ages 15-24, also according to the commission.

Combined with statistics that already aren’t in their favor, teens can face a deadly concoction when it comes to county roads, said head North Kitsap High School Drivers Education Program Paul Christensen.

“A good portion of our collisions happen on rural roads, which are narrower and not well lighted for long stretches,” Christensen said. “Many of the roads are 50 mph and above. And we have a significant portion of fatalities that happen on the roads and at higher speeds.”

“(Teens) have got to be really aware,” Christensen said. “There’s a terrible price to pay if they’re not alert.”

And that’s where the boosters are hoping the new purple wristbands will help: to keep more kids’ focused on the road.

“This is an opportunity for all of us,” Salo added. “When you’re driving, and you see the wristband, remember — it only takes a second.”

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