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FLASHBACK: Bring back courtesy - drive friendly - Odessa American: Celinda Hawkins

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FLASHBACK: Bring back courtesy - drive friendly

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Posted: Sunday, August 11, 2013 7:45 am

Last weekend, another family mourned the death of their beloved child — another young person lost their life on the treacherous streets and highways in the Permian Basin.

A rollover accident in the 8600 block of Highway 191 claimed the life of 20-year-old Dustin Wiginton when his Chevrolet Blazer collided with a Dodge Avenger and rolled several times landing in the eastbound lane of 191.

Sunday in a Facebook post, his obviously heartsick father, Ricky Wiginton, asked if anyone remembered when people “used to drive with respect for other drivers around here.” He pleaded with everyone to  please people be careful, your life depends on it, my son Dustin was taken in a car accident on 191 Friday night…”

Ricky is one of many parents, family members and friends who have lost loved ones on area roadways and tragically, the death toll continues to climb.

I can say, Ricky, while people used to drive with a bit more courtesy in Odessa, the roads have always been a bit dicey. But the roads were not lined with folks trying to text or get somewhere in a hurry, or with as many 18-wheelers as is the case today. Back in the day, the fatal, tragic accidents almost always had to do with speeding.

Remember the slogan “Drive Friendly?” Well, that’s not the case around here anymore. Gene Powell, public information officer at the Texas Department of Transportation, wants to revive that mantra.

“We are seeing more wrecks and fatalities and it is about driving patiently and respectfully,” he said.

He’s right, and he added that we are seeing plates from all 50 states down here and not everyone is used to our traffic patterns.

“It’s not to say it’s outsiders — it’s everybody,” Gene said.

He told me recently that they are installing wire cable barriers along I-20 from west Odessa to Loop 250 in Midland and this should be strong enough to stop an 18-wheeler from crossing the median. Well I’m putting in my request for another barrier along 191.

But here’s a scary thought. We need to be aware of what the folks driving around us are doing. Case in point, I heard a report the other day from someone who was driving down a busy highway and this person witnessed a girl with her feet on the dash, the steering wheel between her knees and what?  A cell phone was in her hands.  A fatal wreck waiting to happen.

Ten years ago, we respected other drivers, Gene observed.

“Today, you can expect the worst from everyone around you,” Gene said.

Five years ago it was safe to come out of the H-E-B parking lot. Today it’s not. So take alternate routes or “the roads less traveled.” It may take a little more time, but what’s time when you are making the road safer for everyone.

As for the Wiginton family, our hearts reach out to them and the many other families who have tragically lost loved ones.  And so did many, many others via Facebook posts.

 “So very sorry for your loss. You are right. People now days are either super careless and don't pay attention because of their phones or they have such a huge sense of entitlement that they feel that they own their spot on the road and will run you off the road instead of be courteous and share the road,”  Shannon Krugman posted.

“My prayer is that Dustin's death be a learning experience for the many careless drivers in the area, and that people see how easily one lapse in judgment could take someone's child from this earth. God bless you in this time of hurt and prayers for your family and a change in this community!” wrote Stephanie Niemann Tibbets.

“I moved back here to be with the grand kids and my aging father after being in San Antonio for 21 years,” posted Angela Fenton Ayers. “Thought coming back to West TX would be a good break from the traffic in San Antonio...yeah right. Have been rear ended and run off the road. Ran off the road on 191 when someone changed lanes, went across the center median into oncoming traffic lost control of the car on rocks skidded back across the direction I was going and ended up on the service road. Don't know how I kept the car upright. The lady did turn around and came to see that I was ok. I'm so sorry for your loss.  God's peace to you and your family.”

Michelle Alexander Snell posted: “ I cannot imagine the depths of your pain but I've had 4 friends who've lost their sons so I’ve seen the pain. I only hope you can find a tiny bit of comfort in the memories and stories you share about Dustin. ..Nothing is that important to be speeding like a fiend to get somewhere unless it’s a real emergency.”

And finally, Dustin’s father, who is a local truck driver, pleaded with drivers to slow down.

“I see every day people doing things and driving like there is no tomorrow, please let’s change the way we think behind the wheel.”

Come on, folks, we can do this.

Odessa, TX

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