Speed-Related Car Crashes Take Toll on Teens

Judy Del Castillo

Just after 10 p.m. on May 18, 2007, Sarkis Atikyan, a senior from Clark Magnet High School, was killed when his car swerved on the Hollywood (170) Freeway and slammed into nearby trees.

On Aug. 27, 2008, two cars collided after traveling at a dangerous speed in a 35 mph zone on Colorado Boulevard, when one car hit a tree and split in half., killing four teenagers, including 19-year-old Cristyn Cordova, who was eight months pregnant.
On Aug. 13, 18-year-old Tina Uguryan, a GCC student and graduate of Clark Magnet, was killed along with her boyfriend Robert Vardanyan, 21.

Uguryan was the passenger when Vardanyan crashed into a tree on the Colorado Street off-ramp from the Golden State (5) freeway.
What do these stories have in common? These people, who were merely teenagers and young adults, were the victims of fatal car crashes that resulted from speeding and reckless driving.

Road rage may have been the culprit in Cordova’s case, and not racing as initially speculated, said Detective Josephine Mapson of the Los Angeles Police Department. In addition, two of the passengers in the car were killed as a result of not wearing seatbelts.

Vardanyan cut off a motorist before crashing his Nissan into a tree.

Uguryan died from traumatic injuries and Vardanyan was given toxicology tests to determine if drugs or alcohol were involved, said the captain of investigator’s division at the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office.
According to statistics on city-data.com, there have been 102 vehicles involved in fatal car crashes between 2003 to 2008 in the city of Glendale alone.

On an online forum for the Armenian community, many topics have been discussed regarding car accidents that have occurred within the surrounding areas. In response, members have expressed awareness and concern in the issue of speeding.

One member, only identified as Sienna, said, “I moved to Los Feliz three years ago. Since then, I have encountered hundreds of men, young and not so young, and some girls who drive around in the neighborhood at top speed. No regard or respect for anyone around them but themselves, and, I guess, who they can impress.

It’s embarrassing to witness what goes on the streets. Please do something that is good to change the way people respond and react to who we are. We’re cool as a nationality; we don’t have to prove it.
Please drive carefully and take good care of yourself and others on the road.”

A Glendale High School student, whose name wasn’t identified, has posted on the site seeking advice about one of his friends who speeds at 80 to 100 mph even on small streets.

As the topic of speeding is getting more attention within the Glendale community, some members have even vowed to change their ways. In response to Uguryan’s death, Hovik, a friend of Uguryan’s, said he was a speed freak until he got the call while going 95 mph on the freeway.

“This opened my eyes. I went out and I was speeding and I remembered Tina’s face and I’m like, ‘She didn’t do anything to deserve this,’ and I realized what a moron I always was for speeding.”

Many cities have been cracking down on speeding and reckless driving.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Colorado Boulevard, a popular speeding zone, including the tragedy surrounding Cordova and her passengers, has stepped up on its traffic enforcement by installing surveillance cameras, increasing the number of patrol cars on the road, and even removing the synchronization of red lights so that a car cannot zoom through the streets.

Still, some residents have raised other worries. “I don’t see why Colorado [street] needs to be so wide. It encourages people to go fast on a road that has blind turns,” said long-time resident Tony Fernandez.

Detective Josephine Mapson, who is all too familiar with car collisions and has seen “too many to name,” encourages everyone, especially young adults, to follow correct speed limits and always wear seatbelts.

Regarding friends who drive recklessly, Anna, a member of the Armenian community Web site, said, “Value your life and be a good friend and don’t let him sit behind the wheel. He will
thank you one day!”

Another member, who goes by the name D.C., put it frankly. “If a ‘friend’ puts your life in danger, he’s not a friend by any means.”