By Sheriff Reynolds
I recently attended the funeral service of a young man I had never met. A week prior to this funeral, I received the notification of a single vehicle crash on Old Orange Mill Road. The message indicated four Creekview students were in a serious vehicle crash — one fatality, two serious and one minor injuries.
As the sheriff, I receive emergency notifications multiple times a day, but vehicle accidents always make my heart sink. I immediately called my son who is a senior, no answer. After a few minutes, he called me, and I was instantly relieved to hear his voice.
As I drove to the scene of the crash, all I could think about was the fact that a mother and father will not have their child anymore. A brother will be forever gone, and a friend was taken from us all too soon. This is not the first fatality I’ve been to that involved a young driver, and it certainly won’t be the last, but as a father of three children, my heart hurts every time.
Over the next few days, I learned more about Stevie Smith from his family and friends. By all accounts, he was well liked by his classmates, had a good sense of humor, enjoyed sports and video games, and loved life.
While learning more about Stevie, I could not help but think of Maddi Phillips. She was a beautiful young lady who passed away in September 2017 while driving to school — not too far from Stevie’s crash. I then began to recount all the lives I have seen lost to tragic vehicle crashes over the years.
I know I can be a demanding parent at times, but I felt compelled to talk with my son once again. This time, it was about being a safe passenger and a defensive driver.
Reminders to My Son
1. Other people can get you killed.
First, do not get in a vehicle with a driver if you have concerns about their ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. If you feel the driver is operating the vehicle in a manner that endangers your life, get out. Ask the driver to stop the car and get out.
2. Green does not mean “go.”
Green means, “look both ways prior to entering the intersection.” I often watch other drivers at intersections. Try it. Most people are not aware of their situational surroundings. They simply proceed because the light changes, without ensuring the intersection is clear of any approaching vehicle.
3. Slow down.
Our statistical data indicates that speed is one of the most critical factors in fatal crashes. Analyzing our data from last year suggests that most of our vehicle-related fatalities occurred in rural areas and not in particularly congested portions of the county. This is most likely due to open roadways and the ability to travel at greater speeds.
Although there are numerous contributing factors in vehicle-related crashes, the one common denominator is human error. As a parent, set a good example for your children by driving the speed limit and obeying all traffic laws. Your children will follow your lead whether you are a good driver or a poor one.
To the friends and families of Stevie Smith and Maddi Phillips, our hearts and prayers are with you.