Mothers of young victims work for driver education Community mourns two accident victims

June 18, 1996|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,SUN STAFF

A month ago today, east Columbia eighth-grader Terence Damien Costley died in a car crash with his longtime friend, Kevin Lucian Francis, 21, also of east Columbia.

Yesterday afternoon, more than 50 Oakland Mills Middle School students and faculty members stood in a circle under the blazing sun to remember their schoolmate Terence, as the parents of both young people push for driving safety measures they say could avert such tragedies.

"We're coming together this afternoon because we cared about Terence Costley," said Oakland Mills Middle's Principal Dan Michaels. "We were shocked about what happened this spring -- shocked to the core."

Yesterday's ceremony and a tree-planting Sunday at the Oakland in Columbia's Town Center, where Kevin Francis worked, focus attention on the tragedy as the parents' new task force works to add driver's education to the county school curriculum.

"I'm committed to helping others not have the pain we have," said Oakland Mills resident Priscilla Francis, mother of the driver in the fatal crash and co-founder of the task force, with Theresa Costley, mother of the passenger.

Costley, an Owen Brown resident and Giant grocery cashier, said, "There are no words to describe what it does to you. I hope no one else ever has to go through this."

The eighth grader and the 21-year-old were killed May 18 when Francis lost control of his speeding Honda on Harper's Farm Road near Rivendell Lane in west Columbia.

The car slammed into a tree, and the force of the impact split the car in half. Francis was thrown from the car, and the 15-year-old was trapped inside.

Police estimate Francis was driving 73 mph in a 35 mph zone at the time of the crash. In the three years he had been driving, Francis racked up four points on his driving record for speeding violations, according to Motor Vehicle Administration records.

Neither Francis, a Howard Community College student, nor Terence was wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.

Automobile accidents are the leading cause of death among American teen-agers. They killed 5,619 Americans between the ages of 13 and 19 in 1994, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Arlington, Va.

"Young drivers are more likely to be risk-takers," said Allan Williams, of the insurance institute. Speed and inexperience often are factors, he said, along with alcohol.

To help prevent such accidents, the task force set up by the two east Columbia parents intends to push for tough state legislation: If a young driver got a speeding ticket, the driver's license would be revoked for one to three months depending on the speeding violation.

Locally, the new task force will review the severity of accident-prone sites such as the Harper's Farm Road site of last month's crash and will make stop signs, speed bumps and other traffic recommendations to police.

And today, Costley and Francis say, they will attend the demonstration of a new Howard County Police Department radar and anti-speeding program at Sohap Lane in Oakland Mills. The new program will post the speeds of passing motorists on an electronic sign so that they will know how fast they are traveling.

"Kev had a tendency to drive fast. That was something we were constantly on him about," said Priscilla Francis, a Washington social worker. "He'd always say: 'Mommy, I've got to keep up with traffic.' "

The two parents hope to draw other concerned citizens into their effort.

Dr. Alfredo Herrera, a pediatrician in Ellicott City, said he might join. His 16-year-old son, Christian Herrera, a junior at Glenelg High School, was killed in December 1994 in an alcohol-related car crash on Route 32.

After the fatal crash, Herrera started a similar task force, which created a safe-driver seminar, "You Are Responsible."

The emotional impact of May's fatal accident is still fresh.

"Our kids are mourning," said Roberta Shawver, a counselor at Oakland Mills Middle.

Friends and family are still going to a makeshift memorial at the site of the accident. Yesterday, the young men's mothers pointed out flowers and messages they had left.

"I wrote this: 'I love you, my baby shortie, Ma,' " Costley read.

Pub Date: 6/18/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.