On Feb. 25, 2017, Austin Fruge, a 14-year-old senior patrol leader from Lake Charles, Louisiana, was with his troop traveling westbound on Interstate 10 to Garner State Park in Uvalde County, Texas. Just east of Columbus, Texas, their two vehicles pulled over onto the shoulder of I-10 to allow troop members a restroom break near a tree. Instead, the Scouts chose to walk to a more secluded area on the other side of a two-way access road, which was actually an old highway with a fast speed limit. On his way back across the access road, Austin was struck by an eastbound pickup truck towing a trailer. He was life-flighted to Houston but tragically passed away three days later.
- The unit should have planned for rest stops and breaks. Planning for rest stops should not include the side of the road or trespassing onto private property.
- When deciding to pull over, the unit could have exited the highway to stop on the shoulder of the access road, where there were no streets the youth could have crossed. Or, they could have stopped at one of the many gas stations and convenience stores along I-10.
- Adult leaders did not clearly communicate to the youth the risk of crossing the access road. It also appears that the leaders did not realize or consider that the access road was two-way, and they may not have known its high posted speed limit.
- This tragedy could have been prevented with proper planning and taking a Safety PAUSE (pause/assess/understand/share/execute) to assess possible hazards.
- Before your next trip, share Austin’s story. Talk with your leaders and youth about what you can do to prevent a similar tragedy.
- Make safety and rest stops part of your transportation plans.
- Remember that stopping a vehicle on a highway is dangerous and should not happen for any reason other than an emergency.