NewsSafe Roads Now


Family, town advocates for safe driving after teen son struck dead by speeding driver

Posted at 5:38 PM, Oct 24, 2018

There isn't a day that goes by when the White family doesn't think about Tristan.

"We didn't get along all of the time, but we were best friends when we needed to be," said his sister, Mackenzie White.

Mackenzie was just beginning her senior year of high school when her brother was hit and killed by a speeding driver.

Tristan was 14 years old.

Their mother, Lisa, said her son was running with a teammate on a well-known dirt road.

Continuing coverage: Safe Roads Now

It was the final day of conditioning before the wrestling season would start, and Tristan had just finished his first season of freshman football at Treynor High School.

"The second they said he'd been hit, I knew exactly where it was," Lisa said. "They didn't have to say where because it was the same path that Greg and I both ran when we were in high school."

Lisa said the next few moments were a blur. Everything was happening so fast as her entire world came crashing down. She was reliving a nightmare: her sister had been hit and killed by a distracted driver when they were in high school.

Now, her oldest son was gone, too.

"I don't even know what going through my head," she said. "I think probably first: 'This isn't real.' "

The night Tristan died, she said, the community came together in a way her family hadn't experienced before, taking care of her other children while she and her husband, Greg, were at the hospital preparing to deliver unbearable news to the kids.

"Treynor just came together and was out here with our kids for the rest of the night," she said.

Family members say they're still hurt that Tristan's life was taken far too soon just because someone was in a hurry.

"It just makes you sick to know how preventable it was," said Tristan's aunt, Christy Nielsen.

In their minds, the punishment did not fit the crime.

Despite Tristan's death, the man responsible for killing him didn't receive any jail time. Instead, he was fined — a $625 ticket — for speeding.

"People do move quickly on that road," Lisa said. "Most people slow down when they see people on the road because that road was the most-traveled running road for high school sports for Treynor.".

Lisa said her son isn't the first to be hit by a car in Treynor; it's happened to at least two other students in his class.

According to the Iowa State Patrol, at least 315 people died in fatal accidents in 2015, the year Tristan died. That number increased to 399 in 2016, and then went down to 329 deaths in 2017. The Iowa State Patrol also says at least 53 people died due to speeding between 2012 and 2016.

That's why the White family is working with the nonprofit Keep Kids Alive Drive 25 to help raise awareness about safe driving. The organization celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

"Our concern as far as our mission goes is anything that happens on or along roadways that affects motorists, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists," Director Tom Everson said.

The Whites worked with Keep Kids Alive, the Treynor City Council, Treynor High School and local Junior Optimists, to bring in a traffic safety education campaign — the License To Live Initiative — to promote safe driving in the community.

Through this initiative, the Whites have received two $25,000 grants to help kickstart the campaign, making possible the re-enactment of an accident at the high school to show teens the dangers involved with distracted driving.

Some of the money was also used to put radar signs in the community.

"They can help alert motorists as they're coming into town what the speed is, and often times when people see those flashing numbers (they'll) check their own speed and slow down accordingly," Everson said.

And although the signs won't bring back Tristan, his family said it will keep his memory alive and hopefully keep other drivers from hurting someone else.

The Whites are also in the process of getting a safe trail installed at a local park in the community. Once completed, it will be called "Tristan's Trail."

Lisa said she hopes the steps her family (and community) are taking to teach people safe driving practices will make a difference.

"It takes two seconds for everything to change," Lisa said. "It's not worth it."

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