Young drivers, deadly crashes: A toll that can last forever

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PHILADELPHIA - Aaron Cooksey has lived the other side of the story - a story of his own making, a story that took one life and changed his own forever.

When asked if he feels like a killer, Cooksey responds simply, "absolutely."

His life has become a cautionary tale of what can go terribly wrong when a young person makes a bad decision to get behind the wheel when they shouldn't be driving.

Sixteen years ago, Cooksey and his best friend, Andrea Calderone, were going to meet some friends in Stark County.

He was driving after having a couple beers, and was speeding down a road, when a car in front slowed to make a turn.

He didn't see the car for a second, and when he did, he jerked the wheel to the right to avoid a collision.

"The truck flipped three times, and wrapped around a telephone pole," he says.

Andrea was dead, and Cooksey's life was about to become a nightmare of his own making.

The first stop was prison for four years.

After that, his life's choices became severely limited.

He had dreamed of a career in teaching - but couldn't become one because he had a felony on his record.

In fact, he couldn't get most jobs, either because of his record, or because his drivers license was suspended for life.

"It takes your identity," he says, "I'm forever that guy who drove drunk. That guy who killed that girl.That guy who threw a lot of opportunity out the window."

He now lives in Philadelphia, in part because he needs a place that has a lot of public transportation because he can't drive.

The worst part is not the practical problems though, but the emotional weight that he carries.

"Just knowing that you devastated a family so deeply because of what you did...their family will never recover from what I did."

Another family, the DePiero's, has lived the life of a family that lost someone - in their case, two children in one accident back in 2010.

"To go back seven years, and say, 'what has changed?' Your dreams and your hopes have been changed, and been dashed," says Laura DePiero.

In 2010, Laura's teens, Erin and Andrew, were pulling out of their driveway, when a speeding car driven by a 17-year-old slammed into them in Medina County.

Through her pain, Laura decided to do something remarkable - to his face, she forgave the driver who killed her children.

"If that was my son," she says, "I would want someone to give him another chance."
Laura said doing so helped her grieve, but the DePiero's wanted to do more, so they found a way.

"It's called the 'Take Control' program," says Laura's husband, Chris, "and we jumped in head first."

The monthly program teaches driving skills to students for free. The DePiero's have helped raise over $100,000 - all in memory of Andrew and Erin. The family has set-up a Facebook page in honor of their children as well.

"We can't let this accident define us, and we can't let it define them," Laura says.

Back in Philadelphia, Aaron Cooksey says if you're the cause of a fatal accident, it does come to define you and your life.

Cooksey has married, and has a three year-old little girl who he will someday have to tell what he did.

He has worked for years to make amends, in large part by speaking to students around the country on the dangers of drinking and driving through his "Drop Your Pride" program.
When he finishes speaking, he asks people not to applaud for him.

He wants students to know that some mistakes, like taking someone's life, stay with you forever.

"When you carry a blemish on your resume like I do," he says, "there's no coming back from that.

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