ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Toby Anderson, an 8th grade teacher, is grateful to be alive after a group of 4 teens in a stolen SUV smashed into his car Thursday night.
Anderson was simply making his way back from Walmart when the 4 teens crashed into him. A group of local construction workers working on a nearby project jumped into action to catch the teens and hold them until police arrived.
His arm in a sling, his nerves still rattled, Toby Anderson is grateful to only have a fractured wrist and stiffness in his body.
"I couldn't believe it. I still can't believe it happened," he explained, "I could have had cuts. I could have lost a limb. I could have been killed."
Anderson does not remember much of the accident. He says the impact of the airbag blurred his memory, but he remembers the shock of seeing four teens run away.
"What were you thinking?," he elaborated.
Moments later, construction worker Ryan Cartagena took off. He and his coworkers chasing the teens down the road.
"I don't want to see a world where people can just hit whoever they want and walk away without paying for what they did," Cartagena explained, "If it would have been my family member, I wouldn't want the driver who hit them to get away."
Cartagena held the teenagers for several minutes until police arrived.
“This is the world we live in and if we don’t protect it, it’s going to go to chaos.”
In Pinellas County, teens are crashing stolen cars every 4 days on average, putting all of us, like Anderson, in danger.
Dewey Caruthers of the Caruthers Institute in St. Pete just launched a 6-month study to look into the problem and find solutions.
"We're not going to arrest our way out of this problem and what we're currently doing is not working."
Caruthers is working with 30 experts across the world to find a way to get a grip on the problem.
"It won't take overnight to resolve, but it's important we find a solution."
Anderson hopes it happens soon. The next innocent victim, might not be as lucky as him.
"More people will die or their lives will be impacted the rest of their lives. I was lucky. My injuries aren't going to last long, but it could have been much worse."
The Caruther's Institute Study is expected to wrap up in April. St Pete Police and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office are exasperated. They’ve met with parents and teens. They've held focus groups, but teens continue to steal and crash cars. One easy solution: Encouraging more people to lock their cars.
The hit-and-run crash happened at about 5:15 p.m. Thursday when the teens in the stolen SUV heading southbound on 33rd St. hit Anderson in his Nissan, which was headed eastbound on 5th Ave. N.
After the crash, 4 teens (2 boys and 2 girls) ran from the SUV. One boy got away.