Teen killed in car crash; driver only had provisional driver's license

Posted at 4:50 PM, Oct 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-21 21:49:49-04

SAN DIEGO - There are California laws designed to give teens plenty of experience before they receive their full driver's license, but the laws only work when parents do their part to enforce them.

While distracted driving conjures up images of texting, social media and listening to music on mobile devices like iPhones, the greatest danger might not be technological -- it may be who is sitting in the passenger seat.

Experts say the odds of a deadly crash doubles when a teen driver is transporting another teen. If a second passenger is added, the odds quadruple.

It's an unlearned message which cost a teenage girl named Natalia her life.

"I will never forget Natalia or the choices that were made that night," said Jessica, her best friend.

Natalia was just like any other 15-year-old girl. She was a high school cheerleader and loved hanging out with friends.

"They were young girls living life and enjoying a little bit of freedom," said her father, Christopher.

One night in 2015, Natalia was out with friends. She texted her mother that they were on their way to drop her off. Natalia's mother, Andora, thought an adult was driving, but that wasn't the case. The driver was a teenager with a provisional license.

In California, a teenager is able to get a provisional permit at age 15 1/2. This allows the teen to practice driving only with an adult in the car. During this period, the teen takes their driver's education course and must complete 50 hours of behind-the-wheel training, logged and certified by a parent.

Upon turning 16, or six months after obtaining a provisional permit, the driver is allowed to apply for a provisional license. This allows the driver to operate a vehicle alone, although not between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. The driver also may not have passengers younger than age 25 without an adult 25 or older in the car. Those restrictions are removed when the driver applies for a full license at age 18.

In Natalia's case, she was in a car driven by a provisionally licensed teen without an adult in the car. Friends say there was loud music, conversation and looking at social media. The driver was speeding as they approached a curve. They looked back at a bad moment, hopped a curb and crashed head-on into a tree.

Natalia was killed.

Her family got the call that there had been an accident and they rushed to the scene. Natalia's father is a firefighter and had been the first responder at many crash scenes before. As soon as he arrived, he knew to expect the worst.

"I see the lights," Christopher recalled. "I see the accident. I see the vehicle, and the vehicle was ripped to shreds."

Looking back on the loss of his daughter, Christopher wishes a parent had refused to allow the girls to drive without an adult. He also wishes one of the girls, especially Natalia, had spoken up, expressing that it was a bad idea to drive with no adult present.

Now, he's sharing Natalia's story, hoping other teens will not make the mistake which cost his daughter her life.

"They're going to hear her story," he said, "and someone is going to go, 'That girl was amazing and look at what happened. I'm not going to let that happen to me.'"