It’s been more than five years since Caytlin Johnston lost her brother, William Johnston, in a high-speed crash on Hawks Prairie Road.
But that night is still clear in her mind.
She remembers being picked up from gymnastics by her father, who was worried that he hadn’t heard from William. She remembers driving the route William would have taken home. She remembers coming across a traffic accident, and a police officer telling her father that a young man with red hair had died.
The North Thurston High School senior tells the story in a video designed to dissuade other students from making the same mistakes William made.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“He was going about 65 miles per hour on a curvy road,” Caytlin said. “Someone pulled out in front of him. He swerves, lost control, and hit a telephone pole and hit a brick and iron fence.”
Caytlin said her brother died at the scene, and that his two passengers sustained only minor injuries.
The video is part of Johnston’s Girl Scout Gold Award project, which is aimed at decreasing distracted driving among teens. She has been working with Thurston County’s Target Zero Task Force, local law enforcement and Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock.
In the video, Warnock advises drivers to slow down, always wear a seat belt and eliminate distractions.
“As coroner, I’m here to tell you that the least of your concerns is getting a ticket or a bump in insurance,” Warnock said. “Motor vehicle crashes are preventable, and the leading cause of death among teens is traffic fatalities.”
Officer Kory Pearce of the Olympia Police Department tells drivers to be especially cautious in school zones, where the speed limit is 20 miles per hour.
“At that speed, it will take only 35 to 40 seconds to drive through the school zone,” Pearce said.
Anne Larsen, Thurston County’s Target Zero manager, said she hopes the video will help teens realize that the ultimate consequence of distracted driving is death. She said there’s a survey that accompanies the video, which is designed to show how drivers’ perceptions change.
The survey can be found at surveymonkey.com/r/VMWFD96.