Defensive Driving Resource

Unbelted Teens Killed in Winter Haven Crashes

Two fatal crashes that have occurred recently along the same stretch of roadway in Winter Haven underscore the fact that many local teens are ignoring the extra margin of safety they could benefit from by wearing their safety belt. We might get tired of saying it over and over again, but Seatbelts Save Lives!  This is one of the most important and simplest concepts of defensive driving.  The two recent tragedies involving teen drivers and passengers are a case in point.

On February 8th, 2009, an early morning crash left one Winter Haven teenager dead and another seriously injured.  The crash occurred on Highway 540 near Summer Glen Drive, when a 1991 Nissan Pathfinder driven by one of the teens struck a power pole and rolled over shortly after 2:00 a.m.

Rescue workers were able to move Sara Kay Smith, 16, clear of wreckage before the vehicle she had been riding in burst into flames.  Smith was admitted to Tampa General Hospital and was listed in serious condition.

Candra Michelle Rittenhouse, 17, was thrown from the vehicle and was also flown to Tampa General Hospital for treatment, but she did not survive.  Rittenhouse was a student at Lake Region High School.  Neither teen was wearing a safety belt.

Two other Winter Haven teens, Aldeir Mayorga and Troy Christopher Cockrum, were killed in December, 2008 on Winter Lake Road after crashing into a utility pole near King Road.  According to authorities, these teens were also not wearing their seatbelts.

Click here to read the Lakeland Ledger article concerning the crash involving Candra Rittenhouse and Sara Kay Smith.

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