BUCKSPORT, Maine — Corey and Christina Darveau are getting closer to the kind of one-year anniversary they would like no other parents to have to endure — the death of their daughter, 15-year-old Taylor, in a terrible car crash last October.
The Darveaus are trying to channel their grief at her loss by doing something they hope will prevent similar tragedies in the future. Last year, the family established the T.A.Y.L.O.R. Foundation — Thinking About Your Life On the Road — and this fall, they are working hard to achieve their goal of reducing teen driving deaths that result from driver inexperience.
“We could stay in a very negative place, or choose to do something in honor of Taylor,” Corey Darveau said Wednesday at their home in the country a few miles out of Bucksport. “When you lose a child, there’s no closure, there’s no finish. [We want ] to take our pain, our anger about how she passed away and turn it into something positive.”
Inside the family’s house, where candles illuminated a homemade shrine to their smiling, blue-eyed daughter, the Darveaus have boxes of kits they are sending to every high school and police department in the state. The 450 kits contain pamphlets, an informational poster and a sample of the pink “T.A.Y.L.O.R. Tags” they would like intermediate Maine drivers to stick on their car windows. The decals help police, parents and others determined whether new drivers are legally able to have teenage passengers, other than immediate family members, in their vehicles.
According to the parent resource website Driveithome.org, car crashes are the No. 1 killer of teens, and in the United States, more than a dozen young people lose their lives in car accidents every day. Drivers ages 16 to 19 are the most likely to be in a fatal crash. Risk factors such as driving at night, talking or texting on a cellphone and distracting passengers add to the dangers of driver inexperience.
Samantha Goode of Bucksport was 16 last fall when Taylor, a freshman and cheerleader at Bucksport High School, decided to go home with her after a school event. Goode was an intermediate driver, which means she had not had her license for nine months, and was restricted by law from carrying passengers.
Corey Darveau said that he and his wife also had gone to the school function and were hesitant about letting their daughter drive home with her friend. But Taylor persuaded them.
“She said, ‘Daddy, I’m in high school now. I don’t have to go everywhere with you all the time,’” he remembered. “I’ve asked myself many times — what would I have needed that day to render another decision? It came to us one day. If there had been an identifying marker on that vehicle, we would have said, ‘You’re not going home with that person. You need to come home with us.’”
Goode was ordered in August to serve 10 days in jail after admitting to being responsible for Taylor’s death. At her sentencing hearing, police investigators publicly acknowledged that Goode had been racing with teenagers in a sport utility vehicle when the crash occurred on the road to the Darveau’s home. Taylor was the ninth teen car crash fatality in 2013, but not the last. Four more teenagers were killed by year’s end.
“As parents, when you lose a child, it is the worst pain you can experience,” Christina Darveau said. “We’re not going to save them all, but maybe we can spare just one.”
They said that so far, they have been thrilled with the interest in the T.A.Y.L.O.R. Tags. People can purchase a set of two decals for $10, and they have sold about 1,200 so far. All funds raised by the sale of the tags have been plowed back into the foundation, to print more tags and pamphlets about the program. An upcoming “glam party” for ladies from 7 to 70 will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 23, at the Spectacular Event Center in Bangor, with funds being used to help produce a teen driving awareness video.
The couple said they want to start going into driver’s education classes to talk about the program, and also about their own heart-wrenching experience. It’s what they feel they have to do.
“Taylor was a very giving person. Very involved with the community. She was active. She was athletic. She was smart. She had plans,” Christina, who had been an emergency room nurse until her daughter died, said. “It could have been very easy to wrap myself up in grief, and stay there. But I feel that she had a purpose here, and this is giving her passing meaning.”
They said that they are heartened by early feedback, which has come not just from parents, but also from teenagers. A Biddeford mother wrote them earlier this year to say that her 16-year-old daughter chose not to get into a friend’s car when she noticed the pink tag in the window, even though the friend said that nobody would notice if she did. About an hour later, the teen driver got into an accident, and the passenger side of the car was destroyed.
“Hopefully, we’ll make a difference,” Christina Darveau said.
For more information about the T.A.Y.L.O.R. Foundation, visit the website taylorfoundation.com or call 902-1044.