SNOHOMISH COUNTY -- The "100 Deadliest Days" starts on Memorial Day when kids get out of school for the summer. Car crashes, many involving teen drivers spike in July and August. According to AAA, 16 to 17-year-olds are three times more likely to be involved in crashes than adults.
As another summer approaches, Q13 News sat down with Cari Staley, a mom who lost her 16-year-old son to a crash last July. Landon Staley was only a month into receiving his driver’s license when he crashed his vehicle killing two other teens.
It’s 10 months since her son died and Staley welcomes distractions, anything to shut off her surges of grief.
During our interview Staley broke down in tear but how could she not. She showed us Landon’s last picture. His bright smile is the way she remembers her son not the way he died.
“He never did sneak out at my house. I kept a tight rein where they were,” Staley said.
But the one time Landon snuck out of their Mill Creek home with three other teens, it cost Landon and two other teens their lives.
“I know he didn’t suffer it was instantaneous,” Staley said.
The group went to Seattle and on the way back Landon crashed into a parked semi-trailer on the side of the road in Lynnwood. Out of the 4 teens inside, only one girl survived.
“I find it comforting that at least she lived. I don’t know her, I don’t even know if my son really knew her,” Staley said.
Staley says she thinks about the other teens who died and their families every day.
Crash investigators can’t say for sure why Landon drifted off the road. Was he distracted, was it speed, did he fall asleep?
Toxicology reports later revealed the 16-year-old had marijuana in his system.
“Of course every parent will blame themselves,” Staley said.
But Staley says her son wasn’t a troubled kid.
He was a typical teen last July experimenting and excited about the freedom that comes with a new driver’s license.
“It wasn’t in his nature to be a partier, his mind was in the right spot he just made a bad choice that night,” Staley said.
She says she talked to Landon about drugs and driving safety all the time.
“I had to talk to him about my concern because he had already driven with extra kids in the car,” Staley said.
With summer approaching once again she wants all parents to be vigilant and teens to listen.
“We are putting those rules up and boundaries up to protect you guys,” Staley said.
Crashes for teens significantly spike during the summer.
“I wish there were more commercials on tv that talks about safety in driving, Staley said.
And also the pain that comes with enormous loss.
“I want them first hand to see me raw, watching me go through some of the pain and some of the things I’ve been through and think twice about their choices,” Staley said.
Staley’s choice is to push on for Landon’s younger brother who in a couple of years will also start driving.
“Traffic alone and the population alone is so much more than it was, it’s scarier,” Staley said.
The family is always reminded of what can happen. Staley wears a necklace containing Landon’s ashes. She also made a video of the 16 years Landon had in this world.
“It’s comforting and tough at the same time,” Staley said.
One of her favorite moments is a sweet exchange between dad and Landon as an infant.
We didn’t have an opportunity to interview Landon’s dad because he died from cancer less than 2 years ago.
Now her husband and her son gone from her life.
“I know that they are together,” Staley said.
Staley mingled her son and husband’s ashes in one urn.
“I love it yeah, we will see each other again,” Staley said.