RALEIGH - Nearly 1,800 people died in North Carolina vehicle crashes in 2021.
On Friday night, those individuals and their families will be honored during the 25th annual “Tree of Life” Celebration and Candlelight Vigil Ceremony on the North Carolina State Capitol grounds in Raleigh. The event serves as a stark reminder of the dangers of unsafe driving, including driving while impaired, distracted or unbelted. It also underlines the importance of traveling safely.
“The numbers show that we are still seeing far too many deaths on our roads,” said state Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette, who will speak Friday. “My agency is committed to building safe modes of transportation and we need the traveling public to stay vigilant to combat unsafe, impaired and distracted driving.”
Everyone is invited to Friday’s ceremony, which will be from 6-7 p.m. on the Wilmington Street side of the State Capitol Grounds.
The centerpiece for the ceremony will be the lighting of a 16-feet-tall North Carolina Fraser Fir tree from Avery County.
The tree will feature 1,794 white, red and blue lights and ornaments with each representing one of the people killed in a traffic crash in 2021. The 429 red decorations and lights will represent those deaths due to impaired driving. Three blue decorations and lights will honor the three law enforcement officers who were killed last year in North Carolina vehicle crashes.
NCDOT and its partners in law enforcement say safe driving also means looking out for the state’s first responders. The Move Over Law requires drivers to change lanes when passing a stopped emergency vehicle with flashing lights.
“I would like to take this opportunity for people to remember the Move Over Law while traveling on our roadways,” said state Department of Public Safety Secretary Eddie Buffaloe, who is scheduled to speak Friday. “This law protects our law enforcement officers, first responders and utility workers. If travelers can safely do so, please move one lane away from those working the roads.”
Others scheduled to speak Friday include Jennifer Lichtneger, director of N.C. Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and Mark Ezzell, director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program.
The ceremony will close with a candelight vigil to remember the victims of crashes.
The event is sponsored by the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Ezzell says many deaths could be prevented if people would follow these safety tips:
- Buckle your seatbelt when riding in any seat in the vehicle.
- Never drive impaired and always find a safe ride home.
- Slow down and drive the speed limit.
- Never drive distracted. Put away cell phones and don’t eat or drink while you’re trying to drive. Concentrate on one thing – driving.