Lights go red in safety reminder

Published 10:16 pm Friday, January 3, 2020

The Pilot Club of Suffolk had two lights on its Safety Tree turn red this past December — both stark reminders for drivers to be safe and alert on the road.

The annual Safety Tree was lit on Dec. 1 at the Suffolk Elks Lodge on West Constance Road. The green Christmas lights on the tree remain lit each year through Dec. 31.

The tree lights are now unplugged, according to Pilot Club of Suffolk Vice President Cathy Richards, but the tree must remain standing for a little while longer.

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That is because of a single-vehicle accident that occurred on the Suffolk Elks Lodge property on Dec. 28. Richards said the insurance company requested that the tree not be moved until the full extent of property damages could be assessed.

The decorative fencing around the elk statue was damaged, but the Safety Tree remained unscathed, apart from some marks on the tree’s sign, which were the result of flying debris, Richards said.

The Safety Tree is a reminder for drivers in Suffolk to stay safe throughout the holidays. Each December, the Suffolk Police Department will replace one of the green bulbs on the tree with a red one, in the event of a traffic fatality in Suffolk during that month.

There were two red bulbs this year. One represents 57-year-old Karen Louise Grieser of Hampton, who died in a multi-vehicle crash at the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel on Dec. 16. The other is 31-year-old Shonta L. Clark of Capron, who died in a Dec. 10 crash at Route 58 westbound, at the intersection of Franklin Bypass and South Quay Road.

“We hate that families lost a family member during the month,” Richards said.

The goal every December is for the Safety Tree to have no red bulbs, by encouraging people in Suffolk to be safe and alert on the roadways.

The tree will soon come down until next winter, but Richards and the Pilot Club of Suffolk are still urging drivers to be safe all year long.

“Continue to drive safe, be aware of your surroundings, and just be safe out there on the road,” Richards said.