Being right isn't always a good thing

By Jeffrey Fazio
DriveTime Columnist

My column in the Jan. 29 edition of Drive Time brought attention to the deaths that happen on the roadways in Berks County. It was ominously titled, "Who will perish in Berks next?"

At the time of that column, three people had already died on Berks County roadways this year. I had suggested, based on statistical evidence, that at least 33 more people would pass away on the roads of Berks by Dec. 31.

It was not one of those times in life that I wanted to be right, but unfortunately I was. Mathematical probabilities in this situation are seemingly as inescapable as the tragic accidents that they represent.

On the evening of Sept. 26, we suffered our 36th loss of life on county roads this year. The fateful number that I had predicted, not surprisingly, was reached.

That weekend, when I read the story of this tragedy on, I was struck by many unusual coincidences to my life in that story. The rational side of my mind knows that the fluke associations I found inside of that story are just examples of the strange randomness of life, but these personalized facets suddenly made the story very eerie to my emotional side.

The first thing that jumped immediately out at me was that the victim in the story shares the same last name as my girlfriend. Thereís just something extra attention-grabbing when someone in a news story shares your surname or the name of someone close to you. It just makes an immediate connection on some level like hearing the name of your hometown when you are several states away. The word(s) just seem more vivid because of their familiarity.

Secondly, although the driver perished on a Berks County road, he was a resident of Schuylkill County. Just over 18 months ago, my girlfriend and I moved to Schuylkill County. Again, just a meaningless coincidence, but yet something I easily personalized.

This particular accident happened on a route that my girlfriend and I traverse at least once every day, if not two or three times. Of all the places for the 36th fatal accident to occur, what were the chances it would happen on the one road that I am forced to drive day in and day out?

More bizarre than all of that, this accident took place on the same road, and just over a mile away from a location I noted in the previous column of seeing a potential deadly crash happening. In the other column I referenced a few locations that I had recently witnessed people driving in a fashion that could have cost them their lives. It just happened to be that one of those spots is very close to this accident.

If we could have stopped at 36 fatalities in accidents it would have tied the lowest number of fatalities on our roadways since these records have been kept. Unfortunately, life and probabilities would not have it. As of this writing we have lost one more and the count is holding its breath at 37.

After my first column on this subject was published, I received a lot of correspondence from people that indicated that they shared it with their friends and family. I canít help but wonder if any of the 34 people that have perished since that first column ran happened to have read it. More importantly, I wonder how many people drove safer this year, even if just a little bit, after reading it.

On the positive side, we are way ahead of last year. In the early part of October 2005, we had recorded 56 fatalities in vehicle accidents in the county. It seems to me that 20 people around the county should really be enjoying their health this Sunday morning.

If we all do our best to drive a little safer in the next 2 1/2 months, maybe, just maybe, we can strive for the second-lowest record of roadway deaths. Hereís to hoping everyone in the county gets to enjoy the coming new year.