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Midvale Journal

New display in Sandy mall honors teens killed on Utah roads

Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM ● By Jana Klopsch

Display at the Shops at South Town memorializing 120 teen lives lost on Utah roads. (Photo Courtesy Zero Fatalities)

By Jennifer Gardiner| [email protected]

The lives of 34 Utah families were tragically altered in 2016 after receiving the news their teenager had been killed in a motor vehicle crash. During October, a memorial was created and put on display inside the Shops at South Town in Sandy as a tribute to those teens who lost their lives on Utah roads in 2016. 

On May 7, Brad and Jenny Montague’s 16-year-old daughter, Erica, was killed when the driver of the car she was riding in was speeding and lost control of the car. As the car turned sideways into oncoming traffic, the passenger side of the car was hit by another motorist. Erica died instantly. 

“She had gone with a friend to take another friend a gift,” said Brad. “Her curfew was 10:30 p.m., so when she was a few minutes late, I sent her a text asking where she was. She replied back, ‘We’re hurrying.’ That was the last time we would hear from her.” 

The Montagues are pleading with drivers to slow down and not speed.  

“If you are going to be late, call your parents and let them know,” said Brad. “We promise you that they would rather have you home safe and sound — and late — than not come home at all.” 

 Excessive speed was the No. 1 contributing factor in fatal crashes involving a teen driver last year in Utah. The Utah Highway Safety Office data shows teenagers traveling at 50 mph or higher when they crashed were 5.5 times more likely to be killed. 

 Over the last 10 years, 285 teens aged 13–19 have died on Utah roads. The lives of 120 of these teens have been featured in memoriam books created by the Utah Department of Health and Utah Department of Transportation, who collected the stories of teens killed in motor vehicle crashes to help state and local agencies show drivers of all ages the impact their decisions have on others. The books are also distributed to high school driver education classes throughout the state.

Fifteen-year-old Joshua Nielsen is one of Utah’s teens featured in this year’s book. Joshua’s friend had just received their learner permit a few months prior to the crash. Joshua was riding in his friend’s car when the driver turned in front of an oncoming vehicle. Joshua took the full force of the crash when the car was hit directly where he was sitting. No one else was hurt.

“There is a reason you practice driving with an adult in the vehicle after receiving your learner permit. Experience is vital,” said Joshua’s mother, Elizabeth Nielsen. “We were honored to be Joshua’s parents and privileged to have this extraordinary soul with us. We will forever miss the beautiful light that shined so bright whenever he entered the room.”

Nationally, the risk of crashes are higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than among any other age group and they are three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash. Driver inexperience is a contributing factor in crashes involving teen drivers.

“I am pleading for parents, siblings and role models to go above and beyond,” said Carlos Braceras, UDOT executive director. “Don’t let driver education end after a semester-long course. Driving safely is a lifelong pursuit and should be a lifelong effort to improve.”

According to Zero Fatalities, more than 90 percent of all crashes are due to driver error. They attribute those crashes to five deadly driving behaviors: drowsy driving, distracted driving, aggressive driving, impaired driving and not wearing a seat belt.

Joseph Miner, UDOH executive director, said there are policies such as the Utah Graduated Driver License laws that were designed to help new drivers learn driving skills over time and gain the experience needed to become safe drivers. 

“These laws, along with prevention efforts by our state and community partners, have saved lives,” said Miner.

The 2016 memorial book is dedicated to Erica Montague, Joshua Nielsen and the following teens who lost their lives on Utah roads (only 15 of the 34 teens killed are listed)

Destany Turrubiartez, 16, of Ogden 

Bailee Marie Dibernardo, 17, of Layton 

Sandon Rylee Marshall, 19, of Vernal 

Sydney Naylor, 16, of Tooele 

Simon Olson, 18 of Saratoga Springs

Caleb Allen, 17, of West Valley City

Hailey Lee-Ann Godfrey, 18, of Eagle Mountain

Tucker Joseph Kunz, 18, of Middleton, Idaho

Braxton Phetsysouk, 14, of Corrine

Drex Jade Taylor, 18, of Diamond Valley

Hunter Chase Johnson, 17, of Bountiful 

Lexie Sage Fenton, 16, of Draper 

Hunter Douglas Kelly, 18, of Layton

The public is invited to view the exhibit commemorating 120 of the 285 teen lives killed on Utah roads since 2007. Memorabilia from select teen crash victims and their stories are also on display. The exhibit will be on display through the holiday shopping season.

 To download a copy of the book “A Reminding Light: Remembering 15 Lives Lost on Utah Roads,” visit