A sad reminder about safety

Published 7:06 pm Saturday, December 5, 2015

With the death on Saturday of a motorcycle rider who was involved in an accident near the Hampton Roads Executive Airport comes a sad reminder that life is short and tenuous, and the insubstantial grip we have on it is no stronger because of the time of year or the celebratory nature of the holidays.

Most folks avoid thinking much about the uncertainty of their days, and that’s probably a healthy way to live. But in the moments of passing by the scene of a fatal accident in early December, one can hardly help thinking of the pain in store for the family that has just lost a loved one in a traffic crash.

Losing a loved one is never easy. Losing a loved one so unexpectedly is even harder. Losing a loved one in this season of joy would be heartbreaking on another scale altogether.

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The Pilot Club of Suffolk is once again trying to gently remind folks of these things, having lit its Safety Tree on the lawn of the Suffolk Elks Lodge on West Constance Road.

Following a long tradition, the club covers the tree in green lights and keeps it lit on evenings throughout the month of December. For every highway fatality in Suffolk during the month, the Suffolk Police Department switches one green bulb to red, giving passersby an arresting reminder about how every traffic death leaves a bright scar on the community.

In a 2005 study published by the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, the authors analyzed crashes from 1975 to 2002 and found that two of the top four deadliest days for motor vehicle crashes were Dec. 23 and Dec. 24. The two deadliest days for pedestrians in that time period were Dec. 23 and Jan. 1.

But even stark reminders like red bulbs on green trees are not sufficient if they don’t cause folks to change dangerous habits. And dangerous habits can be especially deadly this time of year, when folks are busy, hurried and already distracted.

So here’s some simple advice: Put down the cell phone. Never text and drive. Don’t drive when you’re tired. Keep to the posted speed limit. Allow some extra space between you and the driver in front of you. Be especially mindful of motorcycles and pedestrians. Slow down and pay attention.

And as you pass the (hopefully) green Safety Tree, spare a moment to say a prayer for those who have lost loved ones this holiday season, whether in a traffic accident or by some other means. They’ll need all the love and support they can get.