Alabama ranked 5th nationally in teen auto deaths

BESSEMER, Ala. (WIAT) — Alabama is ranked fifth nationally in the number of teens killed in car accidents. Today, local high school students go the chance to hear about the consequences of distracted and impaired driving at “UR KEYS 2 DRV,” a teen driver safety summit.

Mike Lutzenkirchen gave the featured presentation and told the room full of high school students the tragic story of his son’s death. Philip Lutzenkirchen was an Auburn football standout tight end. He died in a single-car accident on June 29, 2014. Alcohol was involved and Lutzenkirchen wasn’t wearing a seat belt.

“It’s a range of emotions. There are days that I can just do it. There’s days that to be honest with you I wish I wasn’t doing it,” said Lutzenkirchen about the presentation. He’s the executive director of the Lutzie 43 Foundation, established in honor of his son, and he frequently speaks to groups like this one.

“I just want one of these kids to step back that’s doing something wrong. And we’re all doing something wrong. Some are minor, some are major,” said Lutzenkirchen.

The summit also hosted other speakers and breakout sessions to discuss safety topics with Alabama’s most at-risk drivers, including texting and other distractions.

“It was really good information. It was something that made me think about maybe ‘I’m not that kind of person’ but if some of my friends are, to kind of help them kind of stay away from that stuff,” said Mary Beth Brook, a Bibb County High School student.

Lutzenkirchen says that’s exactly what he wants to see happen. He says there is a difference between a good friend and a great friend. He says great friends make smart decisions.

He wants the students at the summit to take away lessons that will allow them to make changes but also to recognize dangerous behaviors in their friends and help them.

“You asked how many people I’ve talked to. That to me is an inconsequential number compared to if I get friends to back up and go shoulder to shoulder with a friend to help them change. Those are the numbers that could be astronomical,” said Lutzenkirchen.

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