Herald-Sun editorial: Fatal crash is cause for introspection

Jan. 02, 2013 @ 05:41 PM

Most of us hop into cars or get behind the wheel without a second thought. Some people drive or ride their entire lives without incident.

Anyone who has been in a car crash, though, knows that something as simple as a trip from point A to point B can take a turn for the worse in a frightening, devastating instant.

As of Oct. 31, 2012, there were 1,053 traffic fatalities in the state of North Carolina, and nearly 20,000 total crashes. The annual fatality total has dropped from numbers in the 1,500s, and a high of 1,702 in 2007, to 1,208 in 2012. The downward trend is encouraging, if the total numbers might still be enough to cause one pause.

Some fatalities are weather-related; some are caused by drivers impaired by alcohol or drugs; some happen because of weather conditions; some because of speed or recklessness; many happen because of a combination of many factors.

The fatal crash at the end of 2012 near Hillsborough brought a grim end to the year. Two teenagers died after an apparent race between two trucks led to a crash that killed Kacie Chamberlain and Chase Underhill. Both were 16 years old and attended Orange High School. Two others, McCray Williams, 15, and Sam Whaley, 16, were injured. Collin Parker Lunsford, 17, was one of the drivers; Underhill was the other. Lunsford was charged by the North Carolina Highway Patrol on Monday with two counts of misdemeanor death by vehicle, one count of prearranged speed competition, and one count of reckless driving.

Police reported that Williams and Whaley were also in Underhill’s vehicle, and none of them were wearing seat belts as they raced down Little River Church Road. The Ford F-250 driven by Underhill veered out of control, off the road and struck a tree.

The high school community and the Orange County communities have been deeply affected by the loss of these two young people.

Laws are on the books restricting young drivers to certain times of the day and in other ways. Laws are on the books that prohibit excessive speed and recklessness, and call for wearing seat belts.

All of that is of cold comfort to the friends and loved ones affected by this crash. Preventing the next one must be at the forefront of efforts to educate and inform about the dangers of apparent recklessness such as this.