EUGENE, Ore. -- A mother who said she is fighting to increase the driving age in Oregon after losing her 10-year-old son to a crash caused by a 16-year-old driver exactly five years ago to the day was a one woman protest in front of the Department of Motor Vehicle office in West Eugene on Monday.
“Five years ago on a Monday, August 27, he was killed by a 16-year-old driver, and he was walking his bicycle across the street,” said Marina Hajek in front of the DMV office.
That 16-year-old driver was sentenced to 8 days in a juvenile detention after a conviction of criminally negligent homicide for killing Marina’s son, Vaclav Hajek.
According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than older drivers to crash.
“Increase the driving age,” said Hajek. “Give them bicycles to ride.”
Hajek said she believes that her son’s life could have been spared if the teenager that killed him would have had another year to mature before getting behind the wheel.
Nearby the protest, Eugene 4J School District guest art teacher Mara Thygeson drove up to praise Hajek’s efforts.
“Sixteen-year-olds? Are you kidding? Their frontal lobes aren’t even developed all the way yet,” said Thygeson, still inside her car in the DMV parking lot. “They have no judgment.”
But more than sparking change, Hajek said she just wants her son back.
"I would like him to be here,” she said, “If something like this happened to his friend, he would be here fighting.”
So to keep Vaclav’s memory alive, Hajek said she will fight to raise the driving age in Oregon from 16 to 17.
“And especially in Eugene, where they could be riding their bicycles,” said Hajek. “It’s a green city, no?”
Hajek said she knows that she has an uphill battle ahead, but has a message for the Emerald City.
“If you don't want your children to be killing other children, or risking the lives of their passengers, who are young too, don't let them drive until later,” she said.
Hajek said she will be at the DMV in West Eugene from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. every Monday for the next two months.
And in January, she said she wants to talk with law makers in Salem.
Hajek added that anyone who shares her beliefs about the driving age in Oregon is welcome to join her protest.