For the past eight years, the Utah Department of Health, Utah Department of Transportation Zero Fatalities Program, and Utah Teen Driving Task Force have worked closely with parents and families who have lost a teenager in a motor vehicle crash to tell their stories in a memoriam book.
We meet personally with the participating families, provide grief resources, and help spread their prevention messages to other families and young drivers. The families become a support network for each other and have expressed their appreciation and comfort in being able to share their story with others.
Watch one of our videos on what the Teen Memoriam is and how it has impacted others.
Past Teen Memoriams
What is the purpose of this project?
The purpose of the teen memorial booklets is to prevent teen injury and death due to motor vehicle crashes. Stories are a very powerful way to reach teens and young drivers about the impact their decisions have on the ones they love. Teens who have read past memorial booklets have told us about the impact these stories have had on them and their driving behaviors. Your story will make a difference!
How do I participate?
If you would like to share your story, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 801-538-6864.
After we receive your consent to participate, we will ask that you provide the following:
- First name and last name of your child
- Electronic photo in a JPEG or GIF format of your child
- City of residence
- Brief description in your own words (500 words or less) about what happened, the impact this has had on your family, and any message you would like other drivers to know to prevent these tragedies
A photo of your teen and their story can be e-mailed to email@example.com. You may also mail this information to: Utah Department of Health VIPP, PO Box 142106, Salt Lake City, UT, 84114-2106. We are also interested in telling stories about how these crashes affect friends, classmates, teachers, emergency personnel, and other family members. We gladly welcome stories from others in your life who have been affected by your child's death.
Do I have to participate?
No, participating in this project is strictly voluntary. We recognize that this may be a very difficult thing to do and that you may not want to share your story with the public, while other families find comfort and healing in telling their child's story.
What happens if I agree to participate?
Our staff will work closely with you to collect the information listed above. As we begin the design of book, you will be asked for feedback and approval at every step. We may edit your story slightly for grammatical or spelling errors but again, you will have final say over what is published. Families who speak Spanish will be asked to provide feedback and approval for all translations to ensure their stories are told accurately.
We hold a family remembrance event each October, just prior to the public release of the memoriam book. You will be able to meet the other families who have participated in the past. Many of the families who have participated in earlier booklets requested these meetings and said they found them to be especially helpful and worthwhile. Families share their stories, reasons for participating, and messages they wish to share with other drivers. Families are able to comfort and provide support to each other in a way that no one else understands. Grief counselors attend the meetings and provide support and resources free of charge. Representatives from state and local agencies with commitment to reduce the number of teens killed or injured in motor vehicle crashes also attend.
How do you get my contact information?
The Utah Department of Health has access to death certificates and crash reports. A list of teens killed in motor vehicle crashes is pulled from the death certificate database and medical examiner reports. We then request a copy of the death certificates from the Office of Vital Records and a copy of the cash reports from the Utah Highway Safety Office.
When do I have to submit my story?
In order to get the books to the printer in time for the October family remembrance event, we will need to have all stories and photos by the end of July. This gives us several months to design the book, translate it into Spanish, get approval from all the participating families, and have it printed and ready for you by the time we release it in October.
When will the book be finished?
We release the memoriam books in conjunction with the National Teen Driver Safety Week, which is held the third week of October.
Do I have to speak at the news conference?
No, each year we ask 2-3 families or friends of the teens in the book to tell their story to the media. We try to pick families whose stories have a strong safety message, like wearing a seat belt or not driving distracted. We work very closely with the families who want to speak at the news conference. All families are invited to attend the news conference to show support for those speaking. We also have space available for you to bring mementos and pictures of your child to display during the news conference.
Will a reporter contact me?
You should be aware that if you allow us to include your teen’s story there is a chance that someone from the media, through their own research, may contact you. The Department’s policy does not allow us to release contact information to the media without prior consent from you. All the reporters who have attended the news conference in the past have been very respectful of the families' wishes. You don't have to speak to a reporter if you don't want to.
What difference has this project made?
The books have been evaluated in several high schools and analysis of the data showed that students were more likely to adhere to GDL laws, commit to driving safely, and understand the risks associated with driving after reading them. In addition, 95% of students who had read the books felt other teens learning to drive should read these stories.
- Copies of the memoriam books are distributed to all driver education classes across the state each year. Presentations have also been given at the state driver education instruction conference by participating families. Driver education instructors often require students to read the books as part of their classwork.
- Families interested in education efforts have worked with local health department injury prevention staff. Families have given presentations at high school assemblies, worksites, and other community events.
- The foundation of a unique advocacy and support group among the families who have participated over the past three years has been formed. Several of the families have remained in contact with each other over the years, as a result of participating.
- A YouTube video was developed and distributed to high schools in Salt Lake County. Two families participated in the video and shared their stories.
- The memorial booklets have received both state and national awards, including the:
- Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs Best Practices
- 2009 Silver Award from the 16th Annual National Health Information Awards competition
- 2009 Public Health Hero Award from the Utah Public Health Association
- The Utah Teen Driving Task Force, which coordinates driving safety activities for teens across the state including the use of the memorial booklet, received the 2009 AASHTO President's Award for Highway Traffic Safety from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).
Who do I call if I have questions?
If you have questions, please contact us at (801) 538-6864 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We are more than happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have.