Out Of Sadness, Ridgefields Community Can Effect Crucial Change

We, as a community, are devastated by the recent tragedy that claimed the life of young Jacqueline Brice. That much is all too clear.

As a parent, I can't begin to comprehend the unimaginable grief endured by Jacqueline's family and friends.

And as members of this small town, we all mourn with the Brices.

It was reported that the Brice family is looking for some good to come from this loss so that perhaps another family might be spared the horror they've endured. I began to imagine after I heard this news what could be done to make some sort of difference.

And last Saturday my son and I took the two-hour mandatory parent/student education class required by the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles, a prerequisite for the 16- or 17-year-old wanting his or her license.

As I listened to the information aimed at educating parents and teens in how to make our children better drivers and instructing parents to become active participants in our children's ongoing driver training, it dawned on me that the proper time for this class is not before our teens get their licenses but before they get their permits.

Imagine if we as parents were taught by the state DMV how to best act as teachers of our children and assist them in becoming better drivers. If our teens were taught practical tips and techniques to avoid accidents before they get their permits, as well as defensive driving techniques, then some of these accidents might be avoided through better habits learned at a younger age.

And it should be stressed by the DMV that operating a motor vehicle is a privilege that carries with it very weighty consequences - consequences that could result in situations no family should have to endure.

I got in touch with my friends State Reps. John Frey and Richard Smith. I told them I wanted to see how we could amend the current law to require this parent/teen safety course before a teen gets their permit rather than before they get their license. I told them I wanted to help create a movie that would be shown to all parents and teens during their two-hour driver training course to introduce important safety information to teens and give parents the chance to be a part of their child's learning experience. I also discussed these thoughts with Michael Gibney of the Ridgefield Patch as a way of spreading the word. These ideas were met with great enthusiasm.

I am requesting ideas and comments from the community - of a strictly constructive and respectful nature, please - that may help reduce the frequency of these horrible accidents. Some good may someday come out of Jacqueline's tragic death, and we as a community can help bring it about with ideas and action.

I have a mug in our kitchen that says, "Ridgefield, a small town is like a big family." I hope the Brice family feels our collective sense of loss and I hope this may bring them some modicum of comfort.

I look forward to hearing your ideas.