Another sad loss

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 30, 2003

For the third time this school year, we have lost a promising young athlete to an automobile accident. When Florala lost Benjamin Barrett Sunday afternoon, the grief was an all-too familiar of echo of Andalusia's and Opp's, when they lost Michael Couch and Shaun Johnson. Any loss of life is tragic, but to see these ambitious, active, healthy and happy young men die long before they should have adds a depth to the sorrow that few besides their parents can truly begin to comprehend.

School ends in less than two months, and when it ends, driving time for young men and women increases. Instead of sitting behind their desks, they will be behind the steering wheels, headed for beaches, ball games and other diversions. We ask, we beg, we implore them to drive carefully. We remind them, and all of our local drivers, that the tourist season is just beginning, and with it, increased traffic. Included in that increase are other young and inexperienced drivers, or simply those who are not familiar with our roads.

The state government took one step this year to protect our young drivers from themselves when they passed a law enforcing stricter laws for under-age drivers.

We must do our part by teaching driving skills, and responsibility, and by setting the example for the teen drivers to follow. The first step to driving safely is driving defensively, and expecting anything.

Of course, we can't anticipate every turn in the road, every hidden danger. Sometimes accidents are just that - tragic accidents. But whether speed, bad weather, or fate plays a part, we must do what we can to be prepared, and to prepare our youngest drivers.

Our hearts go out to Benjamin's family and friends, teachers and classmates. In his name, in his honor and memory, we ask them all to drive carefully. We have lost too many young people this year already - and any is too many.