A car full of teenagers coming home from a night at Knott’s Scary Farm crashed on the 5 freeway in Irvine, California last weekend — killing five and injuring a sixth. The 16-year-old boy behind the wheel did not have a license to drive. The other passengers were between 14 and 15 years old.
Even if he had been a licensed driver, he would only be entitled to a California provisional license, which does not allow drivers on the road between 11pm and 5am or allow anyone under 20 years old in the car unless there is a licensed driver 25 or older present. So yes, there were laws broken. Unfortunately, asking “where were the parents?” and ” how did they let this happen?” isn’t going to help anyone now, but it’s still a reaction you will see everywhere when a tragedy like this happens.
An Op-Ed in the L.A. Times pointed out what a cruel question it is to ask after a tragedy like this, “Where are the parents?” But it’s one that you see over and over again when something like this happens — when kids make bad decisions or mistakes and end up dead. No one knows yet what the circumstances of the crash were, they only know that kids who should not have been behind the wheel were, and that is enough for them to hypothesize that it was obviously the fault of the parent.
It happens time and time again – parents blaming other parents. But I understand where the blame comes from. If we can convince ourselves that a parent made a “bad decision” that resulted in this tragedy, we can also convince ourselves it’s a decision we’ll never make — thus our kids our safe. Even though deep down we know it’s impossible to keep our kids safe at all times, we convince ourselves that we can. This convincing requires a scapegoat. It requires someone to do something “wrong” so we can be “right.” We sit in our homes, looking at our children who are brimming with life, convinced that our superior parenting skills will guard us from tragedy. It’s not fair — but I get it. It’s also not true.
My heart goes out to the parents who lost children last weekend. And I hope they don’t see any of this judgment or take it to heart. It’s a communal cry from a group of people obviously terrified of the idea that this could ever happen to them, needing a way to convince themselves that it couldn’t.