He's a 17-year-old boy. Just started his senior year in high school. He's from a small, rural community - you know the kind, close-knit, everyone knows everyone. She's a 14-year-old girl. Junior high school classes are about to begin. She's excited. Already has her first-day-of-school outfit prepared.
These two kids - if past statistics repeat themselves - will be among those killed on Missouri highways this Labor Day weekend. The ages may differ slightly and the circumstances may vary from case to case, but teenagers will be the victims of holiday traffic deaths this weekend. And with those tragedies, dozens of lives will change.
Every year, virtually without fail, I write these same words for the Labor Day and Memorial Day holiday weekends. I write this for one simple reason. I've said it before. In my younger years as a cub reporter, I visited far too many wreck scenes and witnessed far too many deaths. Most could have been avoided with some simple changes. And I'm smart enough to know these words may very well have no impact on the driving public. But that doesn't diminish my hope that they will.
If you'll use a seatbelt, your chances of surviving a traffic mishap increase nearly 30-fold. That's a good starting point. If you'll avoid getting behind the wheel of a car after consuming alcohol, the statistics change dramatically. And if you'll follow the speed limits and drive sensibly, the potential for tragedy is altered immensely.
These three rules - seatbelts, no speeding, no booze - could and will change the lives of others. Our region within the past week has experienced the death of two youngsters in a mishap where seatbelts could have made all of the difference in the world. But it's too late now to rewrite history. It is not too late to make the right choices this weekend however.
Last Labor Day weekend, there were over 1,300 traffic accidents on Missouri roadways. Nearly 600 people were seriously injured. And 10 died. The truly sad statistic unfortunately is that many of those injuries and those lost lives could have been impacted had they been wearing seatbelts, driving sensibly and avoiding alcohol. Numbers, in this case, don't lie.
Words alone will have little to no impact on the death toll this weekend. And yet it's extremely important that you know your future really does depend on your actions and the actions of others.
I hate the headlines on the issue following a holiday. And if repeating the same tired cliches of driving help at all, then that's my job.