From an unthinkable tragedy, a lesson for your teenage drivers

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Max Keevill soon after crossing over into Boy Scouts.

Max Keevill had it all — and did it all.

The 16-year-old was a straight-A student, a member of the National Honor Society, a violist for his high school’s orchestra, a soccer player, and a Life Scout just a few months away from earning Eagle.

After Cub Scouts, Max’s Scouting career really blossomed. He liked the weekly meetings — for the most part — but what really captured his heart was camping, hiking and sitting around the campfire with his friends. His Scouting highlight was a trek at Philmont.

After high school, he hoped to attend college to study biotechnology and help the world. The plan after college was to marry his high school sweetheart, a fellow member of the orchestra and student council.

Tragically, all that ended on Jan. 15, 2011. 

On that day, Max was in his Jeep in full Scout field uniform. He was on his way to a Scout meeting to work with younger Scouts. He was less than two miles from home, driving along a familiar route made dangerous by heavy rain that day. His car veered off the road, went through a ditch, and hit a wooden fence that came through the windshield. Max was killed instantly. 

There were no witnesses, but all drug and alcohol screenings were negative. To this day, authorities aren’t clear what caused Max’s Jeep to veer off the road.

When his father, Chris, received the death certificate, his eyes were drawn to the section marked “place of death.” It read, simply: “in a ditch at the side of the road.”

“Losing your child is the worst fear of any parent,” Chris says, “but this statement somehow made it even worse.”

Max, second from right, loved attending Philmont with his troop.
Max, second from right, loved attending Philmont with his troop.

Memories of Max, coupled with a desire to save other parents of teenage drivers from similar heartbreak, have pushed Max’s parents to become involved with the HEARTS Network, an initiative of the National Safety Council and the Allstate Foundation.

HEARTS is a nationwide community of families whose lives have been changed forever because of car crashes involving teen drivers. Through HEARTS, affected families share their stories and engage in meaningful ways to educate and influence others. The stories are personal and powerful. 

And the numbers are staggering: Every day, more than 15 people die in crashes associated with teen drivers, according to the National Safety Council. 

Inexperience is the leading factor in teen crashes. Though we’re not sure what caused this future Eagle Scout’s fatal crash, we do know he had been a licensed driver for just three months when he died.

“Car crashes are the No. 1 killer of teens,” says Amy Williams, manager of teen and distracted driving advocacy at the National Safety Council. “Inexperience is the leading cause of teen crashes, and the first year of driving is the most dangerous. We encourage parents to ride with their teens before and after teens receive full licensure. This way parents can reinforce safe driving practices and curb any bad habits that may have developed.”

As a parent and Scout leader, you have a vital role in keeping teenage drivers safe. Start by visiting the National Safety Council’s teen driving page for printable materials and more information.

Chris, Max’s dad, knows what can happen if parents and key influencers like Scouters don’t take an active role in teenage driving safety.

“Don’t assume bad things only happen to other people,” he says. “Instead, take action and educate your child to protect them and minimize the risk of them driving off one day never to return.”

About Bryan Wendell 2843 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.