It’s been almost three months since Crystal Jones lost family in a Rusk County traffic accident.
Last April, she said her mother-in-law, her husband’s aunt and her nephew were on Texas Highway 43 between Henderson and Tatum when their vehicle was rear-ended by a pickup and pushed into oncoming traffic. Her mother-in-law and her husband’s aunt were killed in the accident, and her nephew was flown to Dallas. She said he was in critical condition for a long time, and is now going through rehabilitation.
Ms. Jones’ family represents one of numerous fatality accidents that have occurred in Rusk County this year. From January to July, 14 people were killed in 10 crashes, according to data from the Texas Department of Public Safety.
During the same period last year, seven people were killed in five crashes, according to the data. DPS numbers do not take into account other fatality accidents that could have happened within the city limits of Henderson, Overton, New London, Mount Enterprise or Tatum.
The number of recent fatalities has prompted a traffic safety summit in Rusk County. The summit is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the Rusk County Justice Center.
Kamila Brown, public health coordinator for Rusk County, said the event will open up with a video about texting and driving. Rusk County Judge Joel Hale also will be a speaker at the event.
Among the other scheduled speakers include Texas Department of Transportation engineer Charles Gurganus. Mothers Against Drunk Driving and DPS also will be represented at the summit. Hale said school representatives also will have a chance to speak.
Additionally, Ms. Brown said, there will be an open discussion about what can be done to help reduce the number of fatalities.
“We just see a problem, and we just want to see how we as a community can solve it,” she said.
Anne Pool, driving instructor and owner of Henderson Driving School, has put a wrecked vehicle in front of her facility to help raise public awareness about the dangers of texting and driving.
“It just gets the message across,” she said.
Ms. Pool said she is interested to hear more during the summit about the fatality statistics, and why the incidents occurred.
She said she thinks she might be able to help by going to local clubs or other groups showing her video about texting and driving.
“When I show it to these kids (in driving school), you can hear a pen drop. I certainly hope it helps make up their mind here and there that they’ll never do it,” she said.
Hale said the goal of the summit is to gain people’s attention and make everybody aware of how important is to keep their mind on the road, and what they’re doing while driving.
“At the end of the day, I hope we’ve at least raised people’s concern on what they’re doing when they’re driving and hopefully have an impact on the number of accidents we’ve had here,” he said.