According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Labor Day Weekend gets deadlier every year. Unfortunately, this trend is not new and the rates have been rising over the past 50 years. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates 405 preventable fatalities will take place this weekend.
This sobering information takes my mind back to this time a few years ago when I lost an old friend of mine in a reckless driving accident.
Stuart and I were instant friends when we met at church camp during middle school. That seems to happen with everyone though right? Thrust into a situation where you know either a bunch of folks or no one and you have to make it work. Something was different about Stuart though. It was like we had known each other our whole lives. His sense of humor disarmed everyone. Owning his “big boy” appearance with jokes about his weight, his seemingly always red cheeks, and as we got older, his “old-lady mobile” (he drove a Buick during high school.)
Every year, we would reconvene at church camp. Sometimes without having seen each other since the summer before, but as we got older and were given car privileges/later curfews, Stuart and I became even closer. We realized we grew up just miles away from each other in a large city’s suburban outskirts but were only separated by school zone boundaries. We would go to church together on Sundays and Wednesdays and to rock shows on the weekend. He was always down for a good laugh or a serious talk and we would often jump back and forth between the two. Stuart and I came from vastly different upbringings, but we connected on such a deep level it was hard to keep us separated. You knew stepping foot into his space to be prepared for anything, but you knew you would be different when you stepped out of it. He had that kind of effect.
As we got older, church camps became a thing of the past, college choices were made, and distance came between us. This is something I know most people can relate to, but with Stuart, it was different. No matter the distance, we kept in touch. Through Facebook or random texts, he was always there. Always joking. Always laughing. We watched each other grow from afar but we always knew we had a bond. Our bonds would grow stronger with other people over time, but we always had our childhood. We always had summers and rock shows.
Stuart was in his last semester at Texas State University and set to graduate with a degree in Political Science in December. It was a typical Friday night- hanging out with friends, laughing (his laugh was contagious), telling jokes (not sure if anyone could top his), and responsibly enjoying drinks. As the night was winding down, Stuart was ready to head home and got into the passenger seat of his friend’s car. That was the last ride Stuart would take.
Stuart died at the scene. The car, going over 90 mph, smashed into a retaining wall and eventually wrapping around a tree just west of a golf course. The driver, lost his life later that morning in the hospital.
Reckless driving is one of many risky behaviors to avoid this weekend. In an effort to keep roadways safe, the NSC offers these safe driving tips for Labor Day weekend travelers:
- Don’t drink and drive. Police Officers will be in full force focusing attention on impaired drivers.
- If you do drink, make arrangements for a designated driver or a taxi.
- Wear your seat belt. It is estimated that 148 people may survive collisions this weekend because they will have worn safety belts.
- Enforce a distraction-free zone for drivers. This includes cell phones, gps, etc. – Designate a DJ for the car and someone to text for your driver.
- Allow plenty of travel time to discourage speeding and frustration.
- Drive alert and exercise extreme caution at all times.
Please enjoy yourselves responsibly this weekend and let’s start the fall semester off right.