«Why?» sighed mothers and fathers all over the land, hearing about the tragic traffic accident that took the lives of four young people in Tartu County this Tuesday. Just some soundness of mind could have avoided it all.
Mother: She was my only child. She is no more...
But what’s that compared to the shock and pain felt by loved ones and friends. At noon, yesterday, mother, grandmother, grandfather and an aunt with her children were at the accident site in Vehendi, with flowers for Elisa-Angelika who perished. «She was my only child,» said the mother, in tears. «She is no more. Now, there is no one.»
The mother said her daughter of 15 went to Lake Võrtsjärv on Tuesday with friends, as is her custom in summers. She never came back.
This September, Elisa-Angelika and her classmate Getter also in the car would have attended 9th grade at Rannu Basic School. The class of 15 was cut down to 13.
Class teacher Vaike Rootsmaa was devastated, yesterday. «Very difficult to talk,» she said, her voice breaking. «They were lively joyful kids.»
How will we get it into these young heads not to take the wheel while drunk? «Of course I have been thinking about that, but this is hindsight wisdom now,» added the teacher. «Perhaps it was just accidentally that they sat into that car. Surely they knew these young men, this is a small place.»
Estonian roars see speeding youth die yearly. Still, accidents with four youths dead are not the norm. Fresh generations are reaching the partying and driving age, and one would almost conclude like any new generation would claim its blood sacrifice. In April 2009, the girls that entered the wrong car this Tuesday were too young to read the papers cover another accident in Laekvere parish, West-Viru County which also snuffed out four youthful souls.
April 2009: in Padu Village, Laekvere Parish, an aged BMW went off the road in a gentle rightwing curve, flipped repeatedly and caught fire. The 20 years old male driver was flung out and died on the spot. The others, a girl of 18 and two guys a bit older perished in the flames. As initially observed by police, the accident was caused by extreme speed. The driver had been earlier punished for various traffic infringements, including speeding.
August 2015: in Vehendi Village, Rannu Parish, an aged Audi went off the road in a gentle curve, hitting a tree. Four young people – two guys of 23 and two girls of 15 – were dead in an instant. As initially observed by police, the accident was caused by very high speed. This is a village road, narrow and bumpy and curvy.
Randy (23), at the wheel, had been repeatedly punished for misdemeanours and crimes related to drunk driving and other traffic offences. He had no right to drive, as the licence had been withdrawn due to drunk driving this very year. Already, Randy had done time behind bars.
Though the witnesses say the driver had been totally drunk, the police are still in process of expert assessment.
The other youth who died in the car, called Sten, had been criminally punished in 2013 for hitting a minor in the face with his head in Elva, breaking the nose.
Traffic psychologist Gunnar Meinhard says this is the bad classic example of how the young get into such accidents. «Beholding the background of the driver, an error probably occurred in punitive policy,» said Mr Meinhard. «Such people are very hard to change without severe punishment. His extremely recidivist behaviour ought to have resulted in a longer isolation from society. With a stricter penalty, he’d be still behind the bars probably, and the other three would be still alive.»
Last year, court prematurely released Randy from prison, Tartu Prison agreeing to his release. Otherwise, the lad would have been set at liberty at end of this May.
Mr Meinhard thinks people like that should be punished much more severely. «In Estonia, very many decisions by the police end up in courts, and the courts end up with much milder punishments – this very wrong penal policy,» claimed Mr Meinhard.
But the kids of 15? What to do that they would not enter cars driven by such people? They must have known the driver was drunk (data unconfirmed by police – N. N.), but wanted to get home. In all likelihood, they knew a thing or two of the guy’s background.
«This is a classic group dynamics example,» said Mr Meinhard. «First, he could afford a car despite having a licence to drive. Secondly, he seemed to stand out among the locals. Probably, others wanted to hang out with him. Alas, the company of such people often feel fun somehow. The bad background may inspire others to join up.»
Mr Meinhard was grieved that others nearby failed to hinder Randy from taking the wheel. Police lectures road users daily. Mr Meinhard maintains this is not enough – people who catch the eye with repeated misbehaviour ought to undergo constant pressure to change, «in the interests of the society. Just the talk, via media, isn’t enough.»