SALT LAKE CITY — Emily and Brad Roundy vividly remember the fateful day that changed their lives forever.
On May 2, 2015, their 15-year old daughter, Kaitlyn Hansen, was a passenger in an all-terrain vehicle on a rural dirt road west of Price in Carbon County when a deer ran in front of them, prompting the driver to swerve to avoid a collision. The vehicle rolled off the road and into a ravine, Emily explained — "the only ravine within miles."
The police report came back that they weren't being reckless, Roundy noted, but not everyone was wearing their seat belt, including Kaitlyn, who was thrown from the vehicle and died instantly. Two other unbelted passengers were seriously injured but survived. The driver, who was wearing a safety belt, was able to call for help, she said.
"She always buckled every time," Brad Roundy said. "But there was one time when she made a lapse in judgment, and that was all it took."
“Kaitlyn knew to wear her seat belt, but there was one time she didn’t and she was taken from us," Emily Roundy said.
The Roundys were one of several families who recounted their stories of loss Tuesday to help promote safe driving. The teen memoriam program titled "Missing Moments" was organized collaboratively by the Utah departments of health, transportation and public safety as part of a public campaign about the importance of safe driving, particularly for teenagers.
Data from Zero Fatalities shows that last year nearly 60 percent of teens killed in crashes are not buckled or wearing their seat belts properly — the lowest usage rate of any age group.
“The simple decision to choose to wear your seat belt every time you are in a vehicle can and does save lives,” said UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras. “If I could change a single behavior of every Utahn, it would be to make sure they are always buckled up, no matter what.”
In 2015, a total of 26 teens died in vehicle crashes on state roadways, according to data from ZeroFatalities.com. Comparatively, the number of fatalities through September 2016 has already equaled last year's total.
Data from the Utah Highway Safety Office shows that in 2015, teen drivers were twice as likely to have a contributing factor, such as failing to yield the right of way or speeding, in a fatal crash than drivers of other ages.
Campaigns such as Zero Fatalities and events like the teen memoriam are a concerted effort to grab the attention of young drivers and help them realize the importance of being vigilant while driving, explained Utah Highway Patrol Maj. Jess Anderson.
"We're just trying to help (teen drivers) develop good habits at the early stages of driving," he said. "It's the best way to educate, to reach out to them and to help them understand that it's a powerful thing to get behind the steering wheel of a vehicle that weighs several thousand pounds."
Among those profoundly impacted by the loss of a loved one is 15-year-old David “Buddy” Conner, who lost his sister, Cadee, 16, in a crash last October on Mountain View Corridor — just a half-mile from their Herriman home. She was a passenger in a truck that was struck violently at an intersection by cross traffic. The truck rolled after being hit on the side of the vehicle that the teenager was sitting on.Comment on this story
He said the pain of the crash and death of his sibling still haunts his family today.
“My sister was my best friend. If I could say one thing to other drivers it would be that you need to be aware of others around you on the road," David said. "You need to be aware of your surroundings and always be a defensive driver, because just like that, you can flip someone’s whole world around. And for us, we don’t have a rewind button.”