Another phone call in the middle of the night. Another notification by my team, “Colonel, we have a fatal crash with four dead in Avoyelles.”
As I sit here awake, I can’t help but recall the phone calls I’ve received or made over my seven years as superintendent and 34 years as a state trooper. I can’t help but reflect on the last few weeks as we are in the midst of the end-of-the-year holiday period.
And I’m reminded that these fatal crash victims are not statistics. They are not mere numbers. They were, until their untimely and tragic deaths, living, breathing people.
The numbers are hard and cold and present a more sanitized view of motor vehicle crashes. And sure, it’s difficult to watch as those numbers roll in each holiday period and throughout the year. And it’s even more disturbing when we look back over the last few weeks. Since Nov. 19, just prior to the Thanksgiving holidays until today, Louisiana State Police troopers have worked 41 fatal crashes. That is 41 fatal crashes in 24 days with 52 fatalities. Of the 52 fatalities, 60 percent involved lack of seat belt use, 20 percent of the fatal crashes involved confirmed impairment and in another 51 percent, impairment may have played a role. Those toxicology results are pending. Sure, it’s tough to read those statistics, but what’s heartbreaking is to hear the stories behind the numbers.
We refuse to view the 52 lives lost in automobile crashes since Nov. 19 as some statistic. They are people.
They are our family, our friends, our neighbors and our fellow citizens. They have names, faces, mothers and fathers, siblings, friends and each has personal history.
When these 52 individuals awoke on that fateful day thinking about school, or work, or weekend activities, none of them thought about dying in a car crash.
But the tragedies have become too frequent, and each time I get a message about another fatality, it makes me think about the lives lost and the lives affected.
I think about the Texas family on Interstate 20 en route to Disney World and the sisters en route to Dutchtown High School.
I think about the first responders who render aid; the troopers, deputies and officers who investigate and make notification; the family and friends who are directly affected by the loss of life; the memorial services and all who grieve.
And I think about what more we can do.
The only solution is for us all to work together. Troopers will continue proactive enforcement. Troopers will continue informative educational campaigns.
However, troopers need your help. Make a commitment to wear your seat belt. Make a commitment to never drive impaired. Make a commitment to avoid distracted driving.
We are not statistics. We are people with bright futures. Make safety a priority.
Col. Michael D. Edmonson
superintendent, Louisiana State Police