Friday night, on April 25, 2014, I was with my best friends, Michael and Tyler, as well as our new friend Brendan. We were hanging out at a party for Tyler’s sister because it was her birthday. It was a clean party: no drugs, no alcohol, no substances that are commonly found at teenage parties. The early evening becomes night and the few of people left at the party were gathered around small bonfire in the backyard. One of us made a suggestion to drive a mile down the road to a convenient store to get energy drinks. Why? Because staying up all night playing video games was regular for our group every Friday. It was about 9:50PM and the store we were planning to go to closes at 10PM. I pulled my car keys out and Tyler, Brendan, Michael and I ran to my car as it was the easiest to get out of Tyler’s driveway.
We showed up to the convenient store with only a couple of minutes to spare. We grabbed our energy drink choice, paid and left. We got back in my car and turned the radio up loud. As we were in transit back to Tyler’s house, someone made a comment of how well my new tires were gripping the wet, rain-soaked road.
Listen up, this is where things go crazy. I fell victim to peer pressure that night. I drove in a manner that was endangering the lives in the car I was driving.
In my mind, I went from driving, to waking up in a hospital bed. Unaware of anything that happened, I immediately asked what happened. My dad answered. He said I was in a really bad car accident and that we ran off the road and hit a tree. I immediately asked, “Where’s Tyler, where’s Michael? Brendan?” He responded with, “Michael is okay, he has a broken collar bone but he’s up and moving and wants to see you. Brendan is also okay and has a concussion.” I asked again, “Where’s Tyler?” And my parents began to sob.
That night proved to be fatal. My best friend was gone.
Tyler was more than just my best friend. He was practically a brother. Halfway through the school year, Tyler and his family moved to Virginia from Texas. He and I had a journalism class together and we were close from that moment forward. Tyler loved people more than anything. He was friendly to everyone, no exceptions. Second to people, was sailing. Tyler loved sailing and loved taking people out on his boat to show them a fun time. Tyler and I always sought fun adventures. These adventures, to most, weren’t “fun” by society’s standards, but the fact that we were together made the experience fun. We’d go play a round of golf or grab food at a fast food restaurant even though we weren’t hungry. One time, we went fishing in a local pond, only to find out later, there weren’t any fish in the pond. We both were goofballs the majority of the time and only encouraged each other’s goofiness when we were together.
Since the accident, I urge everyone, especially teens, to cut as many distractions as possible. Especially when there are passengers in the car you’re driving. No one distraction is worse than another, so when driving, focus on not only the road, but the other drivers around you. Don’t have the radio turned all the way up and don’t have too many people in the car if you can’t handle them responsibly.
In Loving Memory of Tyler Duane Patnaude.
7.29.95 – 4.25.14
For more information against distracted driving, please visit our distracted driving awareness resource.