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'Just being alive is good': Man urges teen drivers to put down the phone after crash leaves him disabled

Experts: Summertime is deadliest time for teen drivers
Posted: 5:49 PM, Jun 16, 2021
Updated: 2021-06-16 18:59:26-04

Kevin Ramirez was like any other teen boy. He had plans to get an apartment with his friends and attend Texas State Technical College (TSTC).

But on June 12, 2017, just 10 days after graduating high school, everything changed.

“He was going to work that morning, and he was stopped to turn left and there's no turning lane. So he was… he was rear-ended at 70 miles an hour and thrown into oncoming traffic," explained April Self, Kevin's mother.

April received the call no parent ever wants to pick up.

“He was going by ambulance, so we didn't know how bad it was until we got to the hospital. They told us the clouds were too low so they couldn't get the chopper up," she recalled.

Kevin was barely hanging on.

“Whenever we got to the hospital, we were told he wouldn't survive. The doctors told us he wouldn't survive the surgery," April remembered. "We were asked if we wanted them to try. We were like, ‘Of course we want you to try. He's only 18 years old. Why wouldn’t you want to try?’”

Serious crashes involving teen drivers are not uncommon this time of year. The time between Memorial Day and Labor Day is what AAA calls the 100 Deadliest Days for Teen Drivers.

“It's the summertime stretch where we see a spike in the number of fatality crashes that involve teen drivers. Specifically about here in Texas, we see about a 12% spike in the crash rate from the rest of the year," explained Daniel Armbruster, spokesperson for AAA Texas.

April believes the teen driver who hit Kevin was texting at the time of the crash.

“I just get, get frustrated that, that people are still out there. You see, I still see people out there texting and driving and, and driving."

“Distractions are the number one cause of teen crashes. Nearly six out of 10 teen crashes are caused by some form of distraction or at least it plays a role in the crash," said Armbruster.

Thankfully, Kevin survived the crash. But it's been a long road to recovery, both for Kevin and his family.

“He had a traumatic brain injury. They had to… he had swelling on the brain. He was bleeding in his brain and they had to, they took his skull out for six months," said April. “I'm now his caregiver. I get, I get paid to take care of him. I was, you know, working out at the state, at the state school. I'd been out there for 17 years, and now I'm at home taking care of him.”

Through it all, Kevin says he is blessed to be here.

“Everything I’ve been through, I’m still here doing life… you know, just being alive is good," said Kevin.

He says no phone call or text message is ever worth your life or the life of someone else.

“If it’s important, people can pull over to the side of the road and pick up their phone. It’s that easy," he affirmed.

Armbruster says good driving habits start well before new drivers are old enough to get behind the wheel.

“It's important for parents to be a good role model for their child, even before it's time to start looking at getting a driver's license. On the other hand, it's important once they do get that driver's license that parents remain involved. Talk to your children about distractions, why they're dangerous. Talk to them about impaired driving, peer pressure and why it's important to limit the number of passengers in the vehicle.”

Four years later, Kevin is now living life to the fullest.

“I know God’s got me through all of this, and He had a plan set for it. I just like to have fun now. Just not scared to do things anymore."

As for this year, he says he has one goal in mind.

“Strength, muscles. I’m too small," Kevin said as his mom chuckled in the background.

For safety tips for both parents and teen drivers, click here.