When your heart breaks for people you don't even know it's often because you have some common ground. My heart breaks for a family in Piscataway who lost their 17-year-old daughter Monday night.

Police say the girl, identified by a GoFundMe page as Cassandra Feliciano, was killed in a car accident in Piscataway by South Randolphville Road and Centennial Avenue. They found a lone overturned vehicle that authorities say struck a utility pole.

She attended Piscataway High School and played softball and it's said she was an all-around athletic, smart, kind girl. Her family is now planning a funeral instead of a graduation.

Cassandra Feliciano, 17, of Piscataway, was killed in a motor vehicle crash on Monday, Jan. 2. (GoFundMe)
Cassandra Feliciano, 17, of Piscataway, was killed in a motor vehicle crash on Monday, Jan. 2. (GoFundMe)

Just typing that made my stomach drop. Because the common ground so many of us have with this broken-hearted family is a teen driver. We try not to dwell on it if we're smart, but even those of us who are fatalistic and do a decent job of it still think about the what if far too often.

My son earned his driver's license in April of last year. He's 17 and has been driving for seven months. Last night when dense fog set in across New Jersey I thought about it again. He would be working until 10 p.m. I thought of a deer running out. I thought of him unable to see the highway lines. I thought of that late-night knock by a police officer where the people on either side of that door don't want it to open.

You yell at yourself in your own head to stop. You tell yourself it's so unlikely. Yet thousands of families in the United States lose a child this way each year. In 2020, 2,738 teenagers died in car crashes. Hundreds of thousands were injured. Teen drivers are four times more likely to be in a crash than other age groups. Per miles driven teen drivers' fatal crash rate is three times higher than drivers 20+.

Our hearts break for Cassandra's family not just because we're human but because we're afraid. New Jersey is among the best states for teen-driver licensing procedures but we know the wolf is always at a door. All we parents can do is teach our kids well, wish them luck and try not to dwell on it.

And hope and pray it's never our door.

Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski only.

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