Minnesota trying something new to prevent traffic deaths: a memorial Web site for victims
By Dean I Weitzman, Esq. on February 28th, 2011
Across the United States, motor vehicle accidents claimed the lives of 24,474 people in 2009, plus another 4,462 motorcyclists and 4,872 pedestrians and bicyclists, according to federal statistics.
The numbers are sobering, and at least one state – Minnesota – is trying to do something to make people more aware of the human carnage happening everyday on the state’s roadways.
In an announcement today, the state’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) unveiled a new Web site, www.MinnesotaCrashVictims.org, where families of crash victims can post heartfelt memorials and tributes to loved ones who are killed in crashes.
It’s believed to be the first such Web-based memorial site in the U.S., according to the agency.
The idea is simple – if other motorists read the stories of the victims and their bereaved families, maybe they will go out and be more careful as they drive in their own neighborhoods. The profiles on the site can include photographs, family memories and other information about the victims.
“These are the faces behind the statistics,” Cheri Marti, DPS Office of Traffic Safety director, said in a statement. “These are the reasons and reminders to drive safely. The personal stories resonate with visitors far greater than stats and numbers. This human element can help influence safe driving behavior.”
A primary goal of the tribute site is to educate Minnesotans about traffic safety and tell others the stories and causes behind deadly crashes, according to the DPS.
The stories that are submitted are reviewed and checked for accuracy through traffic accident records, the agency said. Important details are included to help site visitors understand what happened in the crashes, such as whether the victims were wearing seatbelts, driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol, driving while distracted or wearing a helmet in the case of motorcycle or bicycle crashes.
“We want families which are bearing the traumatic loss of a loved to have a place to share the memories of that person,” Marti said in a statement. “Through this site, we can keep their stories and message alive, and prevent future crashes.”
Already there are critics who say that such traffic safety education is unlikely just from having and viewing a memorial Web site. Others argue that under the current state budget pressures that such a Web site shouldn’t be funded with taxpayer money.
Both may be valid points, but to us here at MyPhillyLawyer, there’s another argument that’s even more reasonable in support of the memorial Web site – it’s a compassionate, caring and potentially educational thing to do.
Maybe it won’t stop many of the approximately 400 traffic accident deaths that occur in the state of Minnesota each year, but what if it saves one life?
And what if other states across the nation adopted similar sites and they each saved one life, just because some driver somewhere thought twice before driving drunk or driving without wearing their seatbelt?
In addition to those killed each year in accidents in Minnesota each year, another 30,000 people are injured, according to the DPS. More than half of the motorists killed each year are not wearing seatbelts.
What if we had the same kinds of solemn Web sites locally here in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, where they might make other drivers think about their responsibilities and behaviors before they even set foot into their vehicles every day?
It certainly won’t stop all fatal accidents, but maybe, just maybe, it could save even one life somewhere.
For the families of some of the Minnesota victims, the Web site is helpful in the grieving process, according to a story in the Star-Tribune of Minneapolis-St. Paul.
At the Minnesota DPS press conference, a mother described the traffic accident that took the life of her 18-year-old son, Evan, when he was a passenger in a car being driven by his girlfriend.
“This tragedy has left a hole in my family that is irreplaceable,” she told the DPS in a statement. She watched her son graduate from high school at the beginning of the summer and then planned his funeral after Labor Day. “The last memory I have of him is him giving me a wink and a sideways peace sign.”
Another victim’s relative told how her father, Robert Forrer, was killed in 2009 while they were rollerblading and he was struck by a car.
“The car obviously did not see us,” Denise Schnabel told the DPS. “He was struck and killed instantly. This [Web site] is a place where people are not going to forget.”
This Web site won’t solve the problems that lead to traffic accident deaths, not by a long shot.
But if it bolsters awareness, we think it’s a reasonable thing to try.
Every day, all of the attorneys and staff members here at MyPhillyLawyer see and feel the pain up close from the families of victims of horrific vehicle accidents. It’s something we never forget as we work to help our clients.
If you or a loved one is ever involved in a vehicle crash and you need a compassionate, skilled and motivated personal injury law team, we are here to help you, too.
When losing isn’t an option, call MyPhillyLawyer.