I was recently approached by a dear friend, a parent of a 17-year-old, who is alarmed that this year's batch of newly licensed drivers is ignoring the Graduated Driver License law, which prohibits drivers under 21 from having more than one passenger unless accompanied by a parent or guardian and from driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. They thought that I may be able to help spread the message.
To the 17 year olds: I know that you're invincible. I get that. My son and his friends thought they were invincible. On Aug. 20, 2011, they thought the world was theirs for the taking. And they were right. But before the day was over, their lives, and their families' lives, changed forever. The law is there for a reason. You are not good enough to pilot a 5,000-pound weapon with Pharell poppin' full blast and those four idiots you call your best friends messing around in the back seat. Choices.
To parents and older brothers and sisters: I refer to my kids and their group as my friends. They are my friends and always will be. However, and because of that, I often failed to enforce rules that I knew I should because I wanted everyone to like me. Still do, that hasn't changed. But as parents, you have the power to shape your children's driving and passenger habits with the simple taking of keys and privileges. Choices.
To the community: Step up. Rat kids out to their parents. Be that guy whose street the kids are afraid to go down with the radio blasting and six in the car because you might call the cops. Choices.
When I was first asked to reach out, I envisioned using a picture of Dean in his casket, my dear friend Bill Scull's letter, which he emailed to parents two weeks after their deaths, about what it was like to retrieve the boys from the accident, and some lines from the medical examiner to really punch through my point. I guess I've softened with age. If any of you feel that you still need to review all that, I will be happy to get together with you if you think that it will help you fully understand my plea. Choices.
I would like to leave you with the following. I still have three sons. I will always have three sons. We just communicate with each other in different ways now.
Every night, I text Drew and Brian, "Good night, much love," and they reply with either "Much love" or "Night, love ya." I then rub the head of the Charlie Brown cookie jar on my nightstand that holds Dean's ashes and think, "Miss ya, Chuck. Love ya forever." Sometimes, while I sleep, I get a response.
And yes, I'm now crying as I write this, but that's OK. Please, please be safe, everyone.
Ted Khoury's son, Dean, was one of four Mainland Regional High School students who died when an SUV carrying eight students overturned on the Garden State Parkway on Aug. 20, 2011.