NJ Teen Driver Bravely Stops Car And Wins Scholarship
Heroic and dangerous act recognized
On that fateful night, Tarashuk was driving south on Route 202-31 in New Jersey when he saw Marie Vickery – who was at the time suffering from dementia, high blood pressure and malnourishment – turn into oncoming traffic in front of him.
"I stopped at a stoplight and then I saw this lady turning into the oncoming traffic," Tarashuk told AOL Autos. "She came and hit the car next to me and then backed up and the cars crossing the highway almost hit her.
"When the light turned green, I started to drive on. I realized I witnessed something, though, and I had to turn around and help the lady."
Improvising in an emergency
Tarashuk called the police to report what he had saw. They told him to stay put in the intersection, put on his hazard lights and not allow Vickery to pass. That strategy was short-lived however, and Tarashuk was soon forced to improvise.
"I assumed she was going to have to stay put. But she was stubborn and just went around me," he said.
Realizing the potential danger of the situation, Tarashuk followed next to her, trying to get her attention until she pulled into the median in an attempt to make a U-turn. Tarashuk didn't relent, following her into the grass where his car became stuck in the mud.
And incredibly, Tarashuk didn't give up there.
"I had my Stafford Terrier, Zoe, in the back seat. I grabbed her and chased [Vickery's] car down the highway. She had her doors locked and I was banging on her window.
"She said, 'What's going on? I'm just trying to get home.' And I said, 'you're in the wrong lane!'"
Tarashuk was finally able to get into the driver's side door and drove the car to a nearby Dunkin Donuts, where he sorted out the situation with local police. Vickery was taken to the hospital and, like a true hero, Tarashuk stayed by her side for 5 hours.
A hero recognized
As a result of his outstanding actions, Tarashuk, now 19 and a student at The New School of Design, has been awarded a $10,000 scholarship by the Dana Christmas Scholarship Fund, named after a Seton Hall University student who put her life in danger saving her classmates from a dormitory fire.
The scholarships have been handed out annually since 2001, when then-Gov. Christie Whitman founded the program and gave the first award to Dana Christmas at the Statehouse in Trenton.
Tarashuk was also honored by the 200 club, an organization that, according to NJ.com, "provides financial assistance, scholarships and valor recognition to law enforcement, fire and emergency service personnel and their families, and also honors citizens who have done extraordinary things."
"It was an experience people don't normally get a chance to put themselves in, and normally people turn and go on," Tarashuk reflected. "I wanted to take it on. Challenges like that define your personality and character."
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