Pilot Club launches annual Safety Tree campaign

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 1, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

The 2003 holiday season is in full swing and shoppers are driving themselves crazy trying to find that &uot;perfect&uot; gift. That also means they are sometimes driving a little crazy on the streets as they head out to all the stores. With that in mind, the Pilot Club of Suffolk has once again set up a reminder to drive safely and arrive alive.

That reminder, a large &uot;Green Safety Tree&uot; in front of the Suffolk Health Department across from Wal-Mart on North Main Street, serves each year as a visible cue to drive safely.


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Cathy Wolford, the 2003-2004 President-elect of the Pilot Club of Suffolk, invited Mayor E. Dana Dickens III, Chief of Police William A. Freeman, and Lieutenant Debbie J. George of the Police Department’s Investigative Services, to join her in illuminating the Pilot Club’s &uot;Green Safety Tree.&uot;

Each year the Pilot Club uses the Christmas tree theme to promote safe and sober driving during the holiday season. The tree is lit with green bulbs; however, if there is a traffic fatality in this city, a red bulb will then replace a green one. Suffolk police officers have that duty to perform, and Chief Freeman and Lt. George both said it is one task they’d like to avoid.

&uot;Members of the Pilot Club of Suffolk are providing a valuable service in the Safety Tree,&uot; said George. &uot;It is so easy to get caught up in the hectic pace of the holidays. But, when you see those lights on the tree and you know what they stand for, it brings things into perspective. The Safety Tree serves as a constant reminder during the holidays to drive safely. The department would be thrilled for that tree to stay green this year and we thank the Pilot Club for their efforts.&uot;

Freeman said that because of the increase of drivers and alcohol consumption during the holiday period, there will be plenty of police presence on the streets in an attempt to keep holiday driving a safe chore.

&uot;December is seen as a time of joy and celebration, but unfortunately it also signifies an increase in impaired driving crashes and tragedies,&uot; said Freeman. &uot;We in the Suffolk Police Department are encouraging all motorists to operate their vehicles responsibly and we will be participating in some enforcement to make sure our citizens are safe and not driving while impaired.&uot;

Chief Freeman added that drivers should remember to buckle up, drive the speed limit as well as driving sober.

&uot;We will arrest drivers determined to be under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs,&uot; said the chief. &uot;We urge those who do partake of alcoholic beverages to have a designated driver. This Pilot Green Safety Tree should serve as a reminder to keep the lights green. Also, look for the Pilot Club’s sign next to the tree.&uot;

Pilot’s objective is to help prevent traffic fatalities and they would certainly like to see an improvement over last year’s statistics. On Dec. 17, a man died on Route 58. On Dec. 20, two more victims died on Portsmouth Boulevard.

According to Wolford, that’s three too many deaths.

&uot;We want all our citizens to take particular notice of the Green Safety Tree and the Pilot Club’s sign this year,&uot; said Wolford. &uot;The Health Department has also placed a reminder on their sign asking people to have no red bulbs this year. Our goal this year is to make that happen.&uot;

Dickens noted that statistics on Suffolk show that most accidents in this city are caused by failure to stop at red lights and people driving off the roadway due to inattentiveness.

&uot;I would like to join the Pilot Club and the Police Department in asking citizens of Suffolk to be careful; obey all traffic laws, be sure to stop at all red lights, and take the curves in the road slowly,&uot; he said. &uot;The greatest gift we can give our loved ones this year is to arrive safely.&uot;

This year marks the first that the Green Safety Tree has been set in front of the Health Department. Due to the construction of the Hilton Hotel at Constance Wharf, the tree was moved from the corner of Main Street and Constant’s Road.

The Pilot Club of Suffolk is part of an international organization of about 500 clubs with more than 25,000 adult and youth members. Pilot International was founded and chartered in 1921 as an international service organization. Like all Pilot Clubs, the Suffolk organization’s mission is to improve the quality of life in communities throughout the world.

In Suffolk, the Pilot Club is constantly in service to the community through many gifts like the $6,000 Exercise Pro machine presented to the YMCA in August. That piece of equipment enables the fitness center to offer an exercise program to handicapped individuals.

The Pilot Club of Suffolk also supports youth in Suffolk by offering their &uot;Salute to Youth,&uot; honoring the excellence in students in this city each year.