Keep the tree green

Published 9:55 pm Friday, December 9, 2011

On Dec. 1, Mayor Linda T. Johnson joined public safety officials and Pilot Club of Suffolk members in lighting the safety tree.

The safety tree, a project done annually by the Pilot Club, is lit with 150 green lights at the beginning of every December. For every traffic fatality in the city during the month of December, a red light replaces a green one.

Last year, the tree unfortunately had a red bulb almost as soon as it was put up. In other years, it has had as many as six red bulbs by the time the new year came around.

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As I write this, we are now nine days into this month, and Suffolk residents and visitors have driven carefully enough to keep all the bulbs green so far.

It would be wonderful if the Suffolk News-Herald could report during the first week of January that all the bulbs stayed green the entire month. It’s a story I haven’t been able to write since I started working here more than five years ago.

The keys to careful driving are very simple, but many people can’t seem to follow them. Granted, there will always be accidents that are truly nobody’s fault. But in so many cases, accidents are caused by someone who either was downright reckless or was simply not as careful as he could have been.

During the holiday season, it’s extra important to drive with caution. Children are excited, adults are rushed and distracted, and the weather turning cold gives us Virginians a new round of lessons on how to drive on sleet, snow, freezing rain and black ice.

In addition, drivers should be extra careful this time of year, because there typically are more drunken drivers on the road. People who imbibed at parties, unfortunately, sometimes get behind the wheel to drive home, rather than making the sensible and responsible choice to designate a driver; call a cab, a family member or a friend; or ask their host if they can stay overnight.

I would encourage everyone to make sure to drive safely this winter. It’s a terrible time of year to lose someone, and I sure would like to write that story about the safety tree staying green.

To check up on the safety tree’s progress, visit it at 329 W. Constance Road in front of the Elks Lodge.