On the lawn of Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, a mangled car from a recent fatal accident involving a young driver sat as a stark example of the consequences of reckless driving.
Near the displayed wreckage, local and state officials and safety advocates gathered Friday alongside students and parents to encourage teenage motorists and pedestrians to use more caution and reduce accidents.
"We're trying to bring home the issue of safety and trying to get kids to realize that it can happen to them. It's a horrible situation," said Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D). "We're asking people to be much more cautious. We need parents to look after their kids and be aware of what is going on when their kids get behind the wheel."
The rally marked the launch of Safe Neighborhood Day, a traffic safety campaign in which several neighborhoods held rallies, and about 1,500 lawn signs were distributed.
Over the past two months, 15 teenagers have died in car accidents in the Washington area, including seven who were killed in four crashes in Montgomery County.
"We've reached a time in this country when people need to have a sense of control over their own safety," said Pam Miller, founder of Safe Neighborhood Day and the acting chairman of Montgomery County's Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee. "Everyone has had an experience with a traffic safety issue, whether they have been walking or riding in a vehicle. People have a need to get involved with this and want to have a personal stake in the safety of their neighborhoods."
Miller started Safe Neighborhood Day in 2001 after her daughter was involved in two accidents in front of her Bethesda home.
Other speakers at the rally included Perry Mullsteff and his wife, Susan, of Damascus, who started the Sean Mullsteff Teen Driving Foundation after Sean, their 19-year-old son, was killed in a speed-related crash in April.
"The minimal state standards are not enough to create a safe driver," Perry Mullsteff said.
"We are trying to educate the community on that and provide an additional option through the foundation that will help them be better prepared." Mullsteff said the organization is trying to develop a comprehensive driver training program.
Sebastian Johnson, president of Montgomery Blair's Student Government Association, said everyone in the community can help make Montgomery County safer.
"Our greatest assets are our students and children," said the 16-year-old junior. "It's up to the parents, students, local officials, teachers and everyone in this community."