As the members of the Burbank High School baseball team gathered around Gary Seymour in the outfield before the start of practice the other day, he pointed to part of the group and said, “These 10 will be dead before their 18th birthday!”
Seymour is bringing home to the teens the grim reality that traffic accidents are the single leading cause of death for teens. It’s a statistic that the veteran Burbank Police Department is all too familiar with — his 17 year-old daughter, Tricia, was killed in an accident in 2004. He’s been giving talks since then in hopes of keeping teens alive and saving another parent from going through what he went through — and is still going through.
“I think about it (the accident) everyday,” said Seymour, as he showed the team members the heart pendant engraved with “Tricia” and silver bracelet that belonged to his daughter. He always wears them, never taking them off.
Patricia “Tricia” Jean Seymour, was in her junior year at Quartz Hill High School. She was a passenger in a car driven by one of her girlfriends.
As the team members knelt on the outfield grass, Det. Seymour told them, “If you aren’t paying attention, you aren’t hitting the ball. It’s the same with driving. You need to pay attention.”
Baseball analogies come easily to Seymour. He was a professional baseball player before becoming a police officer. Det. Seymour played baseball at Sierra High School in Whittier, in college, and then in the Montreal Expos’ farm system. He joined the Burbank Police Department 30 years ago. Currently assigned to the detective bureau, he spent 14 years in the traffic bureau.
“You wouldn’t text at the plate, so don’t text while driving,” said Seymour, adding, “Any of you could strike out Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals, if he was texting while at bat.”
Addressing the seriousness of the responsibility that comes with driving, Seymour asked the teens to think how they might feel if their driving was responsible for killing their best friend, or their little brother. “I want you to have fun,” said Seymour, “But don’t be goofing around while driving.”
To give the students some idea of what it is like to lose someone close to you in a traffic accident, he suggested they try not talking to one of their friends or siblings for a week. It shows the finality of death.
“It doesn’t just affect you, it affects generations,” said Seymour, “I’m not going to have grandkids now.”
Teens may think their parents are being over-protective or too strict about driving, but it is the most dangerous activity a teenager can engage in. Motor vehicle deaths account for 35 percent of teen deaths.
“I would rather hear my daughter tell me ‘I hate you’ for the rest of my life,” said Seymour, “instead, the last time she told me she loved me was May 29, 2004.”
His words seemed to make an impression on the boys on the team. Ryan Veres, 16, who plays catcher on the varsity, thought Seymour’s baseball analogies were great. “You’ve got to pay attention when driving,” said Veres, who does use a hands-free blue tooth for his cell phone when driving.
Shayne Jensen, 16, a utility pitcher on the team, also liked how Seymour mixed baseball with driving. “It was a good message,” said Jensen, “Heartfelt and very sad.” He drives a classic 1971 Chevrolet El Camino and a 2005 Dodge Ram, and like other players appreciated the message Seymour brought.
Head Baseball Coach Bob Hart thought it was important for his players to hear what Det. Seymour had to say. “Hearing a true life story and how it affects people is more tangible than if the just see it on the Channel 5 News,” said Hart.
Seymour urges parents to talk to their teenagers about safe driving, and teach them to be responsible and accountable. As he puts it, “If you don’t think that you can relay the message to them, invite me to dinner, I’ll even cook. It’s that important.”
Detective Seymour can be reached at the Burbank Police Department, (818) 238-3260.
Editors Note: Burbank Police Detective Gary Seymour recently wrote a letter to be shared during National Teen Driver Safety Week. Please follow the link below to read the letter and share it with any young drivers that you may know. They may tell you “OK, Ya” when they read it, but they will read it and it will hopefully make a difference someday