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Letter: Story on teen raises troubling questions

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Note: The statements, views, and opinions contained in this letter to the editor are those of the author and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of Daily Journal.

Ken Colburn


To the editor:

I wanted to express my gratitude as a reader for your sensitive portrayal of the 15-year-old teenager, Jacob Derrickson, who tragically died recently when a car collided with his mo-ped. This story represents one of the main reasons why I subscribe to your paper. Your story gracefully highlighted the positive qualities of this young man while suggesting his aspirations for the future.

Jacob’s love of family, friends and life itself shines through in your story. Your story also reminds us that all teenagers face challenges “growing up” and few of us make the transition from childhood to adulthood without making a few mistakes. Most of us learn from them and how to do better next time. The fact that Jacob was killed while on his way to fulfill a community service obligation to rectify a small mistake speaks to the fact that Jacob was, indeed, learning how to do better in the future.

That he was involved in this fatal accident while in the process of doing so is a noble tragedy that perhaps only God can fully fathom, but it also affirms Jacob’s moral character and the fact that he was a young man deserving of our respect and admiration. Your story provides much needed public recognition of this decent and fun-loving young man and I hope serves as a small comfort to his family and friends as they deal with their grief.

Your two stories also left me with several questions relating to the circumstances surrounding this tragic event — circumstances that potentiality contributed to the loss of this young person’s life.

For example, why was a 15-year-old Greenwood teen riding a mo-ped in Franklin to complete community service? Does the county probation department expect young teens not able yet to drive a car to complete community service miles away from their home? Does our county probation department expect young teens to have to report to an office in Franklin miles away from their home with only a mo-ped to get them there?

Since this issue originated at Greenwood Community High School, why could Jacob not have performed some community service in or around the high school this summer — was the penalty here, ultimately costing a young student’s life, a safe and appropriate way for our community to ask a young person to rectify a mistake?

Although I do not know all the facts, I wish the Daily Journal would at some point say more if it knows, or get answers, if it does not. I am personally quite disturbed that a child trying to complete community service had to lose his life in the process of attempting to do so.

At the state level, should anyone under 18 be permitted to drive a mo-ped on a state road facing the heavy and potentially deadly traffic that was in play during this accident? Should one at minimum be required to have a driver’s license and/or training in road safety? Any person on a mo-ped is in a precarious place on heavily trafficked roads. Perhaps our state representatives, John Price, Woody Burton and others, would be willing to explore such legislation.

Finally, what can be done to better educate and require both car drivers and those riding on two wheels and even pedestrians to pay more attention to each other on the road? I remember years ago when I commuted to work via bicycle the uneasy feeling I often had that drivers just did not notice me on the road — they seemed to look right through me as if I were not there.

Should mo-peds (and bicycles?) have some kind of signal flag some cyclists use that would better attract drivers’ attention to prevent exactly the kind of collision that occurred in Jacob’s case (as the story suggested this accident was the driver’s responsibility)? Should we hold drivers to a higher standard and impose a greater penalty for drivers who hit pedestrians, mo-peds and cyclists when they should have taken more care and responsibility for the vulnerable on the road?

Given the number of persons on foot or on wheels hit by cars in the county over the past several weeks, perhaps it is time to reinforce this message to drivers. If one is not deliberately looking out for mo-peds, cyclists or pedestrians, it will be much easier to overlook them. Again, perhaps our state representatives would be willing to consider these issues.

Thank you again for your story.

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