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Killer Teen's Out-of-Control Speeding No Accident

Today I almost went on a bicycle ride. My part of Los Angeles is known to be a good place to ride.

Then I thought about the fact that L.A. is the hit-and-run capital of the country. I thought about all of the people driving while looking at their phones.

I did not go.

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Tonight, while on Twitter, I came across an article that made me want to get my kids to bed ever faster then normal. It's a story you have heard many times, in one form or another: speeding driver dead, kills bicyclist as well. What makes this story different is that someone was brave enough to speak out and say this was not an accident.

On April 26, in Hinnesburg, Vt., 17 year-old Joseph Marshall was speeding. According to investigators, he was going more then twice the speed limit when he struck a man named Richard Tom, 47, a man who loved bicycling. Both men were killed. The police initially said that excessive speed on the driver's part was the cause of the crash.

Police Chief Frank Koss told reporters that the Vermont State Police officially estimated the boy was going about 83 mph in a zone where the speed limit was increasing from 30 to 40 mph. The boy's car hit the bicyclist and, as the vehicle came around the curve and left the roadway, the car came to rest after hitting a tree.

Koss, a noted politically correct man, put pen to paper and published his thoughts in the town paper.

"I have been investigating accidents since Aug. 5, 1982. My first fatal crash came two months later when a father driving a Porsche killed himself, his son and two of the son's friends driving at a high rate of speed, most likely showing off. I have always been politically correct and sensitive, just presenting the facts without any editorial thoughts. If the horrific event that happened on Sunday has any meaning other than some candles and flowers by the side of the road, that attitude has to stop now. If you think that the chief of police should always be limited to political correctness and sensitivity, you should stop reading now."

Driving distracted is malicious. It kills. That's why this story is so important.

"If Joseph Marshall had not lost his life, he would have been charged with second degree murder," Koss wrote in a letter published Thursday in The Hinesburg Record. "This was not going a little fast or even distracted driving, it was gross careless and negligent driving. ... Although bicyclists are always aware of the inherent danger from speeding or distracted drivers, this event crossed an unimaginable line, " Koss wrote in an editorial for the Burlington Free Press.

"This wasn't an accident at all," he wrote. "I've had 35 years of not being candid. As a police chief, you're supposed to be sensitive and be careful of what you say, and I felt it was time to, as far as I'm concerned, tell the truth on what happened," the chief said. "I'm very sorry for Joseph's death, but the reality of the situation is had he not died, he would have literally been arrested for second-degree murder."

"If you drive in Hinesburg with no regard to others on the road, we will make sure that you are targeted until driving habits are either changed or you are taking a bus," Koss wrote. "Bicyclists and pedestrians are seriously vulnerable to mistakes by motorists and we will have zero tolerance to unsafe driving that puts lives at risks."

The young man, Marshall, had actually been warned by Koss multiple times to slow down.

The family is angry with Koss. They have been interviewed and here is what they have to say.

"My son was not the type of person to go out and try to murder somebody," Alicia Marshall said through tears. "He did not go out that day to intentionally kill himself or anybody else. If anybody ever thinks back to when they were 16 or 17 years old, what did they do? They drove fast. They felt free."

Marshall and her mother, Kathleen Wood, say the teenager's need for speed was anything but malicious. This is a major change that needs take place in our society.

Driving distracted is malicious. It kills. That's why this story is so important.

I ask you to ask yourself what side do you relate with? Do you find driving recklessly a part of youth or our culture? What are you doing to make our roads safer.

Tonight as I read my 5- and 3-year-olds books, we played a game where they bring me an object and I make up a story for the object.

My kids know about road safety. I talk to them about it weekly.

My 5-year-old brought me a tiny plastic figurine of a football player.

"This is the story of a young man who was once an incredible football player. But one day he made the choice to text while driving and he crashed and broke his legs," I said. You might be thinking I'm a freaky mom, but consider: do you talk to your kids about water safety? With water safety there is no second chance. If you get a child who cannot swim, and they fall in while not being watched, they will drown. I see road safety the same way.

My 5-year-old asked, "Did he die?"

I answered, "Yes, he did, he made a poor choice."

We then read some Dr. Seuss, I swear, but you get my point. My kids know about road safety. I talk to them about it weekly. Do you talk to your kids about road safety? Better yet, do you model good behavior?

I am a mother to three. It goes without saying my heart goes out to the driver and his family. My heart also goes out to the bicyclist—my husband is the same age as he was.

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"For those young people that want to honor Joseph, do more than stand at a tree for a few minutes," Koss wrote, alluding to a candle-light vigil at the scene that took place the night of the crash. "Realize that your actions can have devastating consequences, and drive like you care and respect others just like others should be toward you."

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Image via Vermont Free Press

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