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Editor’s Note: The following letter by Westfield senior Kyle Whippen appeared in the Fairfax Times in March. It is reprinted with permission.

Dear Editor,

It’s surprisingly hard for us to exercise introspection and acknowledge we are our own worst enemy. By our very nature, human beings inherently devise excuses to justify our shortcomings. I am here to edify drivers of all ages that a careless, 15-second mistake can result in the loss of a lifetime achievement.

My name is Kyle Whippen and I am 17 years old. I was pulled over for reckless driving, traveling at a speed of one hundred and five miles – 50 miles per hour over the legal speed limit. This offense is inexcusable, careless and  thoughtless to those I share the road with. These nameless faces are not just drivers. They are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, colleagues, and friends. It takes only one mistake like this to end their lives, my life and the lives of the two friends that were in the car with me. And for that, I am sorry.

Many of my peers may have the visceral reaction of being angry or frustrated when a police officer pulls them over. I am thankful. I thank the officer that pulled me over as he not only saved the lives of those around me, but he saved my life as well. I used to perceive policemen and women in a similar fashion to my peers. And for that, I am sorry.

Far too often, we choose shock value or succumb to peer pressure over contemplation and wherewithal. It is a disease all of us face in adolescence and beyond, inhibiting us from achieving what’s important. You are  unintentionally building a metaphorical fence that is unbreakable unless you practice self-improvement in your day-to-day life. If I had taken the time to think through my priorities, my goals and what I want out of life, then I would have realized the severity of the crime I was about to commit. I would never have put my friends, their families and myself in that position. And for that, I am sorry.

With every challenge, there is an opportunity. Life’s greatest lessons derive from our biggest failures and mistakes. I now face the potential of receiving jail time, a license suspension, and massive fines for my 15-second potentially deadly mistake. However, what affects me the most is not the potential losses I personally will face, but the stress and heartbreak of those who have supported me those most. My reckless driving has resulted in financial and emotional stress on my entire family. And for that, I am sorry. The past 17 years have been leading up to my next chapter in life, college and higher education. My mistake could jeopardize my 17 years of endless studying to receive straight A’s and endless practice to excel as the captain of my basketball team. For my family, my tireless work and most importantly to somehow show my contrition to those familiar and unfamiliar faces I put in danger, I’ve decided to take action and use this as the catalyst for growth and perseverance.

Here is my promise to my family and to my fellow drivers on the road:
• I will be more mature: I have taken reckless driving courses to help me better understand the dangers of the road and how to become a more responsible driver.
• I will pay for what I’ve done: I have paid out of my own pocket for all court and lawyer fees. Thousands of dollars, all the money I have worked for – gone.
• I will never put drivers in danger again: I have voluntarily stripped away my driving privileges and asked my parents to take away my license for a year.

My goal in writing this article not simply to relay personal anecdotes from my life and show remorse, but to use this as a platform to speak to teenagers and all drivers about the severity your careless actions may result in. Don’t make the same mistake I did, and use my errors as your “life lesson.” Learn from my mistake. Do not put the weight of such a foolish act not only on the shoulders yourself, but your family and other drivers on the road. Learn from my mistakes and understand that laws are created to protect everyone, and to break them can put yourself and everyone around you in jeopardy.

Take it from me: speeding drivers result in no survivors.