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O Safety Tree

Sooner or later, unfortunately, all of us will experience the pain of celebrating a holiday without one or more of those people we loved the most — parents, spouses, siblings and sometimes even children or grandchildren.

When that loss occurs around the holidays, the sorrow can be magnified. It’s hard to feel full of joy and mirth while mourning a recent death or marking the anniversary of one.

And while death is inevitable for us all, deaths from car accidents are almost always preventable. Alert, sober, cautious, attentive drivers rarely cause accidents, let alone fatal ones.

The popular myth is that deaths from traffic crashes increase in December, and it seems to be confirmed by statistics.

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report from 2005 analyzed traffic crash data from 1975 to 2002 and found Dec. 23 and Dec. 24 were two of the four deadliest days for fatal traffic crashes, together with July 3 and July 4. Dec. 23 and Jan. 1 were also the two deadliest days for pedestrians during the same time period.

Also according to that report, December had one of the highest fatality rates per vehicle miles traveled throughout that time period, comparable to October and only slightly lower than September.

It was during the time period analyzed by that report that the Pilot Club of Suffolk began putting up its Safety Tree every year to encourage citizens to be even more attentive to driving safely.

The tree is lit with green bulbs every Dec. 1, and the idea is to keep it green all the way through the arrival of the new year. But if a traffic fatality occurs, the Suffolk Police Department will stop by and replace a green bulb with a red one.

The hustle and bustle of the holidays can sometimes cause us to rush and be distracted, but this worthy project is a great way to remind people to be extra careful during December. When we pass the Safety Tree on West Constance Road, let us be reminded that someone else’s life, or perhaps our own, isn’t worth getting to that Christmas party on time or making it to the store before it closes to pick up a gift. Slow down and enjoy the season. You and your fellow drivers will be grateful.

We commend the Pilot Club of Suffolk on this worthwhile project and thanks the Elks Lodge and the Knights of Columbus for donating the location and tree, respectively.