BANGOR, Maine — Holding an 8-by-10 photograph of the son she lost in November, Karen Kinney of Newport struggled to contain her emotions Tuesday night as she offered suggestions she hoped might save the lives of others.
Richard Picken Jr. was only 14 years old when he died in a Nov. 7 car crash in Carmel. Picken was a passenger in a car driven by his future stepbrother, 16-year-old James MacPhearson III of Levant, when the car left the roadway and struck a utility pole.
A state police accident reconstruction specialist estimated that the car was traveling at speeds in excess of 100 mph just before the crash.
“It never should have happened,” she said of the accident, in which both teenagers were killed instantly.
Tuesday’s brief address marked the first time Kinney has spoken publicly about the accident that claimed the life of her son. She later acknowledged it was difficult.
Her father, Keith Kinney of Glenburn, agreed.
“It’s been three months and I still can’t sleep,” he said.
On Tuesday, Kinney said the accident might not have happened if the state had tougher rules for its newest — and least experienced — drivers and had mechanisms for making sure that they don’t violate provisions aimed at protecting them and others, including a curfew and limitations on who they can carry as passengers.
Other suggestions that came forth during the Bangor session included more practice time for future drivers and more parent involvement, tougher penalties for driving violations, classroom speakers who have first-hand experience in the consequences of poor decision-making, increasing the learners permit length to one year and requiring defensive driving instruction.
Tuesday’s forum at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles office at the Airport Mall was the third of six that Secretary of State Charles Summers is conducting in the next few weeks as part of Conversations With the Communities, a public discussion regarding ways to improve the safety of Maine’s young drivers.
Summers said Tuesday that the issue is one of top concern for him, both as a state official and as a father. In a message on the state’s website, Summers noted that in the past year alone, there were around 50 fatal crashes in Maine in which a young driver — someone between the ages of 16 and 24 — was involved.
To that end, Summers has initiated the first overhaul of Maine’s driver education requirements since the mid-1990s. A technical committee will review suggestions the state receives and turn some of them into requirements now and put others on a “bucket list” of improvements that can be made in the future.
Bangor’s gathering was the third held so far. Similar sessions were held earlier this month in Lewiston and Kennebunk. All sessions are being conducted at Bureau of Motor Vehicles offices. The remaining sessions will be held Wednesday, Jan. 18, in Caribou; Thursday, Jan. 19, in Calais; and Monday, Jan. 23, in Portland.