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Health Department hopes display will remind teens to drive safer

SANDY – There’s a somber kind of holiday display at the Shops at South Town.  The Utah Department of Health is placing a display that talks about the lives of teens that have lost their lives due to traffic accidents.

The Utah Department of Health has been putting out a book every year, for the past ten years, highlighting some of the teens who died on Utah’s roads, either as drivers, passengers or pedestrians.  One of the teens featured this year is Erica Montague from Payson.  She died after the car she was in took a turn too quickly in May of 2016.  Her father, Brad Montague, says, “If there was a new kid in class, she was always the first one to make friends with them.  On the softball team, she was the glue that held them all together.  It didn’t matter who they were, she was cheering them on.”

He says he hopes all teens will either see the Department of Health’s book or see their display, and will realize they’re not as indestructible as they might believe they are.  Montague says his daughter’s death shook the lives of everyone he knew. “When Erica was killed, I’ve never seen a community come together like they did,” he says.

Over the past decade, state officials say 285 teens have been killed in accidents.  Even though teens make up nine percent of all licensed drivers, they account for over 20 percent of all crashes.  “We just knew we had to find a way to make these numbers real to people, that they aren’t just numbers, they’re real people,” according to Utah Department of Health Spokesperson Jenny Johnson.

The department has highlighted the lives of 120 of these teens in their yearly book, and Johnson says these stories are saving lives.  Plus, they’re also helping the families of these teens keep the memory of their loved ones alive.  Johnson says, “We’ve seen healing in the families over the last ten years.  They, themselves, are being saved by telling their own story by helping other people understand our decisions impact real people.”