SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — In 2021, a total of 33 teenagers lost their lives on Utah roads, and on Tuesday morning, Oct. 18, state leaders held a memorial to honor their stories, hoping it will inspire others to be safer behind the wheel.
The room was filled with posters of the teens who died, and two families who were among the grieving shared their stories.
Sharaden Caldwell lost her sister, Payton, in a car crash last year.
“There have been so many deaths on the roads in Utah,” said Sharaden Caldwell. “It seems like we’ve become numb to them. But remember, everyone in a car is someone’s sister, mother, father, child, grandparent, or friend. On June 7, 2021, our hearts were shattered.”
Payton Caldwell and Emma Call were on their way to Deer Creek Reservoir when a truck rear-ended a slow-moving Jeep, pushing it into Payton’s and Emma’s Chevy Trailblazer. Two of the vehicles involved caught fire. Sharaden Caldwell said when she arrived at the scene, her heart stopped when she recognized the burnt remains of their Trailblazer.
“Payton, who was the driver in this fatal crash, was not at fault,” said Utah Department of Transportation Executive Director Carlos Bracers. “They were victims of somebody else’s reckless behavior.”.
“That day of the accident runs through my mind every single day,” said Isaac Call, Emma’s brother. They hope their message Tuesday will remind others that when they’re behind the wheel, to make sure they’re doing everything they can to be safe.
Tuesday’s press conference was in conjunction with National Teen Driver Safety Week. In addition to the families’ stories, UDOT emphasized the importance of education and experience. They recommended that parents start talking to their teens about safe driving habits early on. One resource for that is the Zero Fatalities pre-driver program, aimed towards those preparing to earn their Learner’s Permit.
You can read more about Payton and Emma’s stories, as well as the stories of the other teens who lost their lives last year in the Team Memoriam book. The book is meant to educate other teens and is shared in Driver’s Ed courses in Utah.