A red reminder for Suffolk drivers

Published 10:09 pm Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Pilot Club of Suffolk’s annual reminder to drive safely bore unfortunate fruit this December.

It was the 40th anniversary of the Safety Tree, a tradition the club started back in 1978 to promote traffic safety during December’s busy tidings. The Christmas tree was donated by Mike Bibbo with the Knights of Columbus and was posted at the Elks Lodge on West Constance Road.

It was lit with green lights on Dec. 1, but for each person that died in a traffic accident in December, the Suffolk Police Department sent an officer out to replace a green bulb with a red one.

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Unfortunately, by the time the tree came down this Tuesday, an officer had replaced a bulb. Robbin Pierce, 58, was the driver and only occupant of a van that crashed head-on with a pickup truck on Whaleyville Boulevard the evening of Dec. 10, according to a city press release. He died at the scene.

Cathy Richards, club treasurer and projects co-chair, said the club’s goal is to keep the lights green for the whole month of December. But the red light still tells the story of what can happen on the road.

“We just feel that it makes people aware of what can happen,” Richards said. “That’s why we encourage people to drive safe during the holidays.”

Richards said that when the green bulb was replaced with a red one, friends and people on social media immediately made their comments to the club about what had happened. That response showed club members that the Safety Tree once again did its job to raise awareness, she said.

“Hopefully it remains all green (next year),” she said.