Smith: What we owe to Ashley

  • Hundreds of people showed up on Wednesday evening at Rancho Cotate High School for a candle light vigil to memorialize 17-year-old Ashley Carlson who died in a car accident, Tuesday, May 6, 2014. People also said a prayer for two others in the car who were injured in the accident. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Retired police chief Sal Rosano and I reacted the same way to what a heartbroken young man said in the newspaper about the roadside death of his girlfriend, a delightful Rancho Cotate High student named Ashley Carlson.

Mo Hamade said, "It was an accident. A horrible accident. No one should be blamed."

It's understandable and honorable that Mo would want to discourage anyone from blaming and deepening the anguish of the friend of Ashley who was at the wheel when the Honda Civic left rural Llano Road and struck a tree and a utility pole.

But it was not an accident, something that happened beyond anyone's control. We've lost another of our children to a teen car crash that could have been avoided, and we owe it to her to speak frankly about it.

The deeply concerned Rosano has worked in and around police departments for more than 50 years. Since retiring as Santa Rosa's chief he's been a law enforcement liaison to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

He said, "As long as young and inexperienced drivers continue to believe that 'accidents just happen' and they are no one's fault, we will continue to see more of these tragedies without the need to take responsibility for the behavior behind the wheel which is the direct cause of these terrible events."

Rosano added, "In 95 percent of all collisions there is typically an underlying cause, and that is usually a driver's inattention, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, texting, speeding and a number of other factors, most of which are preventable."

While alcohol, drugs and phone use are not suspected in Tuesday's crash, whenever three or four people ride in a car, danger is present. When they are teens, the peril is far greater.

Most of us have been there. We know the distractions, the temptations.

Any dialogue we can have now to attempt to prevent another tragedy like the one alongside Llano Road last Tuesday night would honor Ashley Carlson.

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