Devon Staples died on Saturday night in Calais, Maine. (Photo: Facebook/Devon Staples)
22-year old Devon Staples was instantly killed on the Fourth of July when he accidentally set off fireworks from his head.
He was making friends laugh with a mortar tube on his head and a lighter in his hand, and he accidentally ignited the firework, his brother Cody Staples, told the New York Daily News. Cody watched the tragedy unfold from just 5 feet away, and said “It was a freak accident.”
“…Devon was not the kind of person who would do something stupid. He was the kind of person who would pretend to do something stupid to make people laugh.’
Devon Staples acting in character as Gaston at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. (Photo: MouseSteps | YouTube)
Extreme injuries, and even death, from fireworks are unfortunately not uncommon. And something else that sadly happens with too frequent regularity? Young adults making poor choices that can seriously jeopardize their lives.
Commenters on articles about the death of Staples took to articulating a common theme, so many of them noting that they feel it is a miracle they made it to adulthood given some of the risky behaviors they engaged with as teens and young adults.
“I did a lot of stupid things too when I was younger, I’m surprised to still be alive,” comments user SamPatty.
Concurs commenter Nuff: “I remember being ten foot tall & bullet proof. Only a miracle Myself & my friends haven’t died a death by misadventure ourselves.”
Staples lived in Orlando, Florida, where he had worked as an actor at Disney World. One of his characters was Gaston, from Beauty and the Beast, who, in the cartoon, literally was ten feet tall and bulletproof.
Watch Devon Staples charm a family while acting as Gaston at Walt Disney World. (Video: MouseSteps | YouTube)
So what is it about the brain at this age that fails to prohibit clearly dangerous behavior?
To start, “teens and young adults are influenced by the people around them more than older adults [are],” Art Markman, PhD and a professor of psychology at the University of Texas-Austin tells Yahoo Health. “Both peer pressure to do silly things and also the desire to impress others provide strong motivation that can lead young adults to do silly,” and often dangerous, “things.”
But peer pressure isn’t the only factor when it comes to young people’s decision-making. Perhaps even more significant than the influence of others is the still immature development of the brain itself.
“The frontal lobes of the brain help people to stop (or inhibit) behaviors that have been engaged by the motivational system,” Markman explains, “The frontal lobes do not finish maturing until people are in their early 20s, and so young adults are more prone than older adults” to be motivated by and act on risky behavior.
And just as a young adult’s brain hasn’t finished developing, a young adult herself has yet to have the breadth of experiences that help contextualize decision-making.
“Young adults have generally experienced less loss in their lives than older adults,” Markman says. “They are in the peak of health and generally have strong feelings of self-efficacy — that is, they believe they can accomplish whatever they set out to accomplish. Consequently, they tend to feel like it is unlikely that their actions will lead to serious harm or death.”
And as was the case in Staples’ death, alcohol use is more prevalent in young people, also hampering an individual’s ability to inhibit their own behavior and make good choices.
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