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Road race ends in death for teen

"The death of an 18-year-old Bremerton teen on Monday has brought up seemingly age-old questions about youth and their cars: Why do teens, especially males, like to go fast, and what can be done about the tragedies that result?Those questions, perhaps as old as when the first teen got behind the wheel of a car, were on the minds of many this week after 18-year-old Joshua D. Ahart was killed following a one-car accident in South Port Orchard. According to reports from police and witnesses, Ahart became involved in race with another car that began on Tremont Street in Port Orchard, continued onto eastbound Highway 16 and ended in death about 1:45 p.m. near the Sedgwick Road off-ramp. Witnesses said the cars were travleling at speeds of 100 miles per hour. The Washington State Patrol reported the 1991 Plymouth Laser driven by Ahart entered the highway's median close to the Sedgwick intersection, crossed back over both eastbound lanes and left the roadway at the off-ramp to the right. The car struck a guardrail on the left side of the off-ramp and hurtled over it, and rolled into a ditch, coming to a halt on its top. Ahart, who the State Patrol said was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown from the car and found dead at scene. A passenger who was wearing a seat belt, 17-year-old Silverdale resident Patrick E. Ford, was treated for minor injuries at Bremerton's Harrison Hospital and released.Authorities continue to look for a male suspect driving the other car in the alleged race. The man, driving a teal-colored Honda, is described as a 5-foot-8, 140-pound white male with blond hair.Port Orchard Police Chief Alan Townsend, who was at the scene immediately after the accident, said he has seen an increase in automobile racing in recent years, though accident fatalities have remained low. From being at the scene, you could see the speeds involved, he said, noting the trail of debris, marks on the roadway and damage to barriers. It's kind of a gruesome scene. You wonder what they were thinking of at the time they were doing that. Obviously this brings to light the need to continue enforcement against this.Townsend said a recent movie focusing on teens and their cars - The Fast and the Furious - may be contributing to the rise in racing.The movie has brought attention to this, he said. That's the only reason I can see why we're seeing the increase.To combat the problem, Port Orchard police are relying on educational efforts with school districts and enforcing traffic laws as much as possible, Townsend said. Although Port Orchard may not have the resources to focus specifically on speed demons, Port Orchard police do participate in the Bremerton-Kitsap County Traffic Safety Task Force, a multijurisdictional organization that conducts traffic safety emphasis patrols once or twice a month in selected areas of the county. Task force coordinator Shirley Wise says the mission of the countywide operation is to reduce traffic-related injuries and fatalities by focusing on things such as aggressive driving and excessive speed. As far as racing is concerned, Wise says the section of Port Orchard Boulevard from Tremont to Bay Street is prime territory for impromptu racing. Even though the roadway twists, turns and slopes down toward the water when it approaches downtown Port Orchard, You get people who think that's a great place to race. But they're just going way too fast, she said.When accidents do occur, failure to use a seat belt is a prime factor in resulting deaths.That is the biggest thing, Wise said. No seat belt usage is the biggest thing we see in fatalities.Still, Wise said racing not a growing problem. What is becoming more widespread, she says, is road rage. Road rage is more of a problem for people stuck in bottlenecks, and we are seeing a lot more aggressive drivers, she said. We all know there's a problem with traffic out there, but we're all stuck in it. If people are courteous, it can solve a lot of problems.What can't be solved, however, is that another young person has died as a result of an auto accident. Rhoda Ahart, Joshua's 17-year-old sister, disputed reports that her brother wasn't wearing a seat belt or was involved in an auto race. She described her brother as a loving person who did everything to his car while attending Olympic High School in Silverdale. This fall would have marked his senior year at the school, though the family had plans to move out of state.Racing, Rhoda Ahart said, was something her brother never spoke of. "

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