The death of 17-year old Bridget Noel Chambers of Gardnerville this week in a brutal car crash left me with a sickening feeling. There have been many likened fatalities that have preceded her, but for some reason, the news of this one really made me sink.
Parents can never return to the lives that they knew once they lose a child. The cause of death shouldn't matter much since reason cannot erase the result. A loss caused by untimely illness, for instance, is still a loss. But when a child is murdered or killed in an accident, the gruesome images of that death prevail.
Bridget Chambers. She was just out for an unassuming drive in her new car. She was 17 years old. Seventeen years. Beautiful girl. What a sin. Poor kid ... Poor, poor kid. What a nightmare. She had her whole life waiting for her. Now, she will never know the magic and adventure that life's journey offers us. Did I know her? Do I know her parents? No. Can I empathize? You bet.
Based on a 2003 study by the Nevada Department of Transportation, there were an astounding 31,522 accidents on Nevada public roadways in 2002. Failure to yield was second only to DUI alcohol. It was reported that Bridget Chambers was struck by someone who apparently did not yield to the right of way when turning left from a southbound transit. The state of Nevada buried 381 people in 2002 as a result of 7,245 auto accidents - 5.3 percent or 384 of which were the result of a left-turn collision like the one that killed Miss Chambers.
So what's my point? My point is that people, regardless of age, should either educate or reeducate themselves on the rules of the road. Either that, or ride a bike or learn how to walk (if they are capable of even doing that). Drunks for sure. And people who just shouldn't be driving any more, such as people who are visually challenged; people who are physically impaired to the point that their reflexes are in question; people who are of an age accompanied by physical limitations; or people who are just too stupid to know how to be careful and exercise caution should stay OFF the road!
Sure, some teens exhibit intrepid daring in their early years of driving, but I've news for everyone: Most of the people I see in a hurry all the time are not teenagers. They are middle-age and up. In a hurry to go where? To nowhere. That's where. Nowhere. My neighborhood for one is like a NASCAR raceway.
When we first moved here and my daughter wanted to ride her bike, my wife and I were fearful of cars racing around the bend, or backing blindly out of a driveway (make that short driveway) apron. Bridget Chambers - a teen, a young adult - was struck when she had the right of way. It was not her fault. Besides, the number of people killed in Nevada auto accidents in the age brackets of 36-45 (106 fatalities) and 46-55 (88 fatalities) each exceeded the number of teens in age brackets 16-20 (62) and 21-25 (54)
We must all realize that a car, if not used properly, is a die-cut metal coffin that is tailor made for either you or someone else who just didn't have to die by way of a crash. Some people just should stay at home. So far, my car has been hit three times in three years by people backing out of parking spaces like their heads were riveted to the windshield and bolted into a face-forward position. Then they looked surprised with a "Wha' hoppind" look on their faces.
The shrouded mask of death has been sitting in the driver's seat since Henry Ford cranked up his first small fleet of engines. It is just waiting for its next victim. As the population of automobiles grows, so too does the number of fatal crashes. As misfortune would have it, until the mask of death is introduced to the household of the reckless, drivers who have no business on the roads will continue to turn our streets into the rails of a darkened tunnel ride at a carnival fun house. Until the mask of death intrudes, no one believes that one can be responsible for the death of another on the road, or even be the one who invites the hand of death to touch the shoulder of one of their own loved ones.
Carson City and the state of Nevada are not exclusive to fatal accidents, though Nevada's fatal crash rates have historically soared over national trends, with 2002 showing a chilling 10-year high increase of 41 percent. And riddle me this: How many deaths does it take for any city, county, or town to seriously identify the need for traffic lights in heavily trafficked areas? One perhaps could have prevented the untimely and sad death of young Bridget Chambers.
Traffic is traffic. And if it is heavy enough, then lights are warranted. Not when we reach the actual traffic count criterion. Not when we finally figure that we have enough crashes that could have been correctable by the installation of a light. And not after we count the stack of dead bodies and call it enough.
n John DiMambro is publisher of the Nevada Appeal. Write to him at jdimambro@nevada appeal.com.