Those of you who know me personally, or who have read my blogs, or who know me via social media, know that I’m passionate about road safety — and for good reason. For those who don’t know me, the short version is that my stepson, Matt White, was killed in a Caltrans accident while filling a pothole on the Elk Grove Boulevard exit ramp of I-5 in Sacramento, California on December 14, 2007. Matt was 35 years old. His daughters were only 8 and 10 years old when he was killed. The driver who hit Matt was sober, but driving too fast because he was late for work. Matt’s death, coupled by the fact that my husband retired from Caltrans after 35 years of dodging traffic, made me keenly aware of how fast tragedy can happen.
What you don’t know is that there is another tragedy lurking around the corner at my family. Tudie Rose is my pen name. I chose that name for a special reason. When I was a baby, my grandfather reportedly would hold my little hand and say, “Just like a little rosebud,” thus, “Rose.” Tudie was the nickname for my mother’s favorite relative, Elnora Buchanan Fautz, who was killed by a hit and run driver while she waited for a streetcar on the corner of Telegraph Avenue and 49th Street in Oakland, California on July 9, 1946. Tudie was 39 years old. Her husband, Joseph, watched it happen. We don’t know whether the driver of the vehicle was intoxicated (he was never caught), however, the speeding vehicle hit Tudie at 12:35 a.m., in a pretty secluded area, according to the transcript of the coroner’s inquest. That suggests to me that the driver was probably drunk. My mother always said that I looked like Tudie. Mom idolized her, and I wish Tudie had lived long enough for me to meet her. I only have the stories Mom told about Tudie — stories about what a fun person she was — stories Mom always told with sadness in her eyes.
When I heard about Bloggers Against Drunk Drivers blogging this week to stop drunk driving, I couldn’t help but jump on the band wagon. I would add also that I’d love it if all cell phones were tossed in the back seat, or locked in the glove compartment or the trunk.
We all need to be responsible drivers. No husband should ever have to watch his wife hit and killed by a speeding vehicle whose driver was probably drunk. No children should ever have to send their father off to work in the morning and never see him again because he was doing his job. Please stop and think about the lives you have the potential to end or ruin when you drive after drinking, or pick up that cell phone behind the wheel, or speed on your way to work because you hit the snooze button on the alarm clock. Please realize there are pedestrians waiting for street cars and buses. Think about those men and women working in construction zones who have families who want to see them at the end of the day. Think about the tow truck drivers, highway patrol, and emergency technicians on the side of the road who want to see their families again. It’s time to call for responsibility. Every action has a consequence.
I’m sure Tudie (the real one) would want to say, “Slow down and don’t drink and drive.” I’m sure Matt would want to say, “Slow for the cone zone.” Words from the grave.
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