Raleigh - The "Tree of Life" was illuminated this evening on the grounds of the State Capitol in honor of the memory of the 1,387 lives lost on North Carolina highways in 2015. The Governor's Highway Safety Program, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and law enforcement agencies from across the state joined families and friends of the victims to honor these tragic deaths and to bring awareness safe driving.
The tree is lit with 431 red lights memorializing the victims of alcohol-related crashes, 955 white lights commemorating the lives lost in all other vehicle crashes, and 1 blue light recognizing the law enforcement officer who lost his life in a traffic crash. Following the tree lighting, M.A.D.D. held a candlelight vigil in memory of those who died as the result of a drunk driver.
"The annual Tree of Life ceremony is our time to honor the victims that lost their lives on North Carolina roads and to use the ceremony as an opportunity to help prevent similar tragedies from occurring," said GHSP Director Don Nail. "Our goal is zero fatalities in North Carolina, and we want to remind everyone who is about to travel for the holidays to buckle-up, travel the posted speed limit and don't drive impaired."
Director Nail and M.A.D.D. National Representative LaRonda Scott were joined by several others that spoke about the loss of life due to a traffic-related crash. Angela Thomas spoke on behalf of her son that died due to a distracted driver. Jahlecia Smith expressed the importance of not driving impaired while speaking of her mother, Felicia Harris, her 6-year-old niece, Jahnice Beard, and a friend of her mother, Darlene McGee, that were killed by an impaired driver.
N.C. Transportation Secretary Nick Tennyson spoke to honor DMV License and Theft Bureau Inspector Robert Bowling, who was killed in a traffic crash in Mebane in May 2015.
There have been 1,224 fatalities so far this year on North Carolina roadways, which is a slight decrease from the 1,236 deaths that occurred during the same period in 2015. Alcohol-related deaths are down almost 20 percent, with 312 fatalities this year compared to 387 at the same time last year.
The "Tree of Life" will remain on display at the State Capitol through Jan. 5, 2017.