An un­usual, tragic day

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

There’s no easy way to say it: Last Fri­day was aw­ful.

In the span of al­most 12 hours, four young lives were lost on Charles County roads in three sep­a­rate car crashes.

The tragedies be­gan at 12:25 p.m. when two West­lake High School se­niors were killed af­ter the car they were in crashed into a traf­fic light pole at the in­ter­sec­tion of Small­wood Drive West and St. Ni­cholas Drive in Wal­dorf. The driver, Colin Bi­pat, 17, and a pas­sen­ger, Des­mond Cooke, 17, per­ished in the crash, while an­other pas­sen­ger, Caleb Marshall, 18, re­mains hos­pi­tal­ized.

Then, five hours later at 5:40 p.m., a car driven by Akeema James, 25, of La Plata was head­ing down U.S. 301 near Gille­spie Cir­cle when, for rea­sons still un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the car left the road­way and struck a tree. James was ex­tri­cated from the ve­hi­cle by res­cue crews and flown to a hospi­tal where she later died from the in­juries she suf­fered. In the car with James were her two chil­dren, ages 4 and 6, who had been re­strained in safety seats and sur­vived the crash.

The fourth life was claimed at shortly be­fore mid­night when deputies with the Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice re­sponded to a re­port of a sin­gle-ve­hi­cle col­li­sion on St. Peter’s Church Road. Ken­dull Proc­tor, 18, was pro­nounced dead at the scene. Po­lice be­lieve Proc­tor had lost con­trol of his ve­hi­cle ne­go­ti­at­ing a curve, left the road­way and struck a tree.

In two of the in­stances — the first two ac­ci­dents — po­lice be­lieve speed was a fac­tor. Cir­cum­stances for the third ac­ci­dent are still be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.

All of these vic­tims were young — two of them not yet out of high school. The young mother won’t see her chil­dren grow up, and they will have to go on with­out her. Proc­tor, too, was young and had fam­ily. For such car­nage to hap­pen in such a short span of time is star­tling.

This should be a mo­ment to re­flect on our own mor­tal­ity. We some­times for­get, day to day, that when we are in our ve­hi­cles, we are driv­ing ma­chin­ery that weighs tons but can eas­ily be dam­aged and no amount of safety fea­tures are go­ing to en­sure we sur­vive af­ter hit­ting an im­mov­able ob­ject at a high rate of speed. Charles County had a to­tal of 24 traf­fic-re­lated fa­tal­i­ties in 2016, and has had seven al­ready this year. Even one traf­fic fa­tal­ity is one too many.

Let’s take a mo­ment to mourn these four young lives. It is not a time to place blame on them even if in­ves­ti­ga­tions re­veal the driv­ers made er­rors that con­trib­uted to their deaths. It does noth­ing but fur­ther com­pound the tragedy to their sur­vivors by plac­ing blame on them. In­stead, we, as driv­ers, should do our best to be re­spon­si­ble, obey traf­fic laws, put down our cell phones, and be more aware of our sur­round­ings as we travel lo­cal road­ways. We’re not only re­spon­si­ble for our own safety — bar­ring any un­fore­seen cir­cum­stances — but re­spon­si­ble to those around us. Don’t be an­other statis­tic.

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