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There are few things worse in life than getting a knock on your door or a call to tell you someone you love has died suddenly in a traumatic way.
My mom’s family got that first notification back in August 1974 when they learned one of her sisters, a recent high school graduate and bride of three days, had been killed in a freak crash with a concrete truck.
My mom carried fear from that day with her throughout the rest of her life. We lost other cousins and family members to tragic wrecks, but we never dreamed that some 30 years later she, too, would meet a similar fate.
I lost my mom, only 51 years old, on a rural Kentucky road when a young driver, who had been awake for almost a full day and who had been drinking, fell asleep while driving. He hit her head on. He had minor injuries.
I was traveling out of the country when I got the call she had been in a wreck. I kept asking which hospital she was at and if she’d be OK. It was like a boulder was dropped in my lap when I heard she had died right there on the side of the roadway.
As a journalist, I’ve also been on the other side of traffic fatalities. I’ve stood beside mangled, twisted metal that no longer resembles a car, waiting for a coroner or ambulance to arrive.
I’ve held the hands and hugged parents and spouses and siblings and friends as they’ve told me the stories of who their loved ones were, long before they were defined by a fatal crash.
They are stories told too often from American highways, especially here in Brunswick County.
In October, at least seven people lost their lives in crashes on Brunswick County roads.
As of Aug. 31, the most recent statistics available through the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety program, 13 people been killed on our roads. In 2006, the year my mom died in Kentucky, 35 people died in Brunswick County crashes. Last year, 21 people were killed on local roads. We’re likely to exceed that number this year, if we haven’t already.
When our reporters talk to the law enforcement officers who’ve responded to many of these wrecks, they say they’ve been caused by a variety of factors. They’re happening in a variety of places.
Although not true for every wreck, several of the wrecks have involved people not wearing their seat belts. In some cases, emergency crews think lives may have been saved if a seat belt had been worn.
With the holidays quickly approaching, we’re launching an awareness campaign about seat belt usage. To do so, we’re sponsoring a poster contest promoting seat belt usage. You can find details about the contest on page 2A today.
Help us spread the word. Take part in our poster contest. People of all ages and interest levels are invited to participate. We may use the winning artwork in future issues of the Beacon or any of our special publications.
And most importantly, remember to buckle up each time you get in a car. Encourage those who ride with you to do the same. It only takes a second and it could save your life.
Stacey Manning is the managing editor of The Brunswick Beacon. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 754-6890.