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Sorrow on the summertime roads

This has been a tragic summer, with fatal auto accidents taking the lives of young people in our region. There have been three deaths in Connecticut, and one in New York state, of victims ranging in age from 16 to 22 years old, beginning in May, with the most recent being a one-car accident July 29 that took the life of a rising senior at Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Falls Village. This newspaper, and other media in the area, have covered these accidents as they have happened. There was a story by Cynthia Hochswender on the most recent tragedy in last week’s Lakeville Journal, and there is a story this week by intern Arthur Potter on ways for young drivers to learn some safety rules to help in unexpected crisis situations when they are behind the wheel. 

Potter attended a class geared specifically for teenagers on July 31 at Lime Rock Park, run by Lakeville’s Bob Green, who is the executive director of Survive the Drive. Green writes a periodic column on auto safety for this newspaper (see one this week on the Viewpoint page), and always teaches our readers something new about the dangers of navigating the roads in all kinds of weather, and with all kinds of distractions. A nonprofit built around auto safety, Survive the Drive’s mission statement is: “Survive the Drive motivates and informs drivers, through comprehensive educational presentations, to understand their own vulnerability and imprint safe driving attitudes, behaviors and techniques. Our goal is to save lives and make communities safer environments in which to live and work.” Read Arthur Potter’s article to find out what the young people who attended the class, himself included, learned.

There are, of course, many challenges for drivers of all age groups, with reflexes slowing and eyesight and hearing waning as we grow older. But experience can help mitigate those problems, as can the knowledge older people garner over the years that things can go very wrong all of a sudden. The best thing to do is to expect dangers on the road. None of us can prepare for everything, but we can try. 

The searing sadness and grief surrounding the deaths of young people on the road is overwhelming for their families and friends, and for those who hear of their young lives being taken so suddenly and prematurely. They had their whole lives ahead of them, but one terrible incident took that all away in an instant from each one of them.

Those young people who are struggling to understand and accept such tragic outcomes should seek help, as advised by Housatonic Valley Regional High School Principal Ian Strever in an email sent to the school community, from friends, family and professional counselors who are available to them through the high school. The community is shaken, as are the victims’ families and friends, and the only way to get through such an unexpected shock is to come together and support one another through a path of grieving. Condolences to all who have been affected by these untimely and tragic deaths. (The Housatonic Youth Service Bureau will host an evening of remembrance and healing on Thursday, Aug. 9, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the agency’s office on the campus of Housatonic Valley Regional High School.)

And here is a plea to all to be even more careful and vigilant on the roads. For more information on Survive the Drive, go to www.survivethedrive.org.