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Annual Red Ribbon Ceremony Remembers Victims Of Impaired Drivers

December is Impaired Driving Prevention month.  A virtual ceremony this week remembered Vermonters killed this year by impaired drivers.<--break->

Vermont’s Safe Driver Program began 30 years ago to address the impacts, provide a voice for victims and convey the consequences of impaired driving.  Every year the program coordinates a Red Ribbon ceremony, this year held virtually. Coordinator Carol Plante explains that a red bow is placed on a Christmas tree to remember those killed by impaired drivers.  “We’ll be adding a red ribbon to the tree to represent each of the 25 lives lost to impaired driving to date in 2020. The tree has ribbons on it from the past 30 years so every year we add a ribbon, we don’t take any away.  We also surround the tree with the poinsettia plants and each of those plants in different colors represent the ages and genders of the people who have been lost this year. The red symbolizes males over the age of 21 and there are 16.  The white symbolizes females over the age of 21 and there are 7 and the marbled symbolize the number of males under the age of 21 and there are two.”

The ceremony is often held at the Vermont Statehouse, but it is currently closed due to the pandemic.  Governor Phil Scott offered a video message praising the strength of survivors.  “As we enter this holiday season we remember those who are no longer with us and celebrate their lives.  We honor their memory by doing what we can to prevent any more Vermont families from having to spend this time of year without their loved ones.”

Vermont State Police Director Colonel Matthew Birmingham said impaired driving is completely preventable.  “Nearly 47% of the fatal crashes Vermont has suffered so far this year are a direct result of an impaired driver, 27 of our 57 crashes with 61 total deaths. Sadly this number is only projected to grow before 2020 comes to a close.”

In 2003, Linda Crosby was seriously injured and her teenage son was killed when a drunk driver hit their car.  “There was a woman behind her who called 911 immediately and said this person is going to kill somebody, please hurry. Unfortunately the police didn’t make it there in time to stop her. She hit us head on and Scott and I were trapped in the car. When they closed the ambulance doors they said he took a deep breath and it was the last breath that he took.  Scott was my everything. I was a single parent with an only child.  Find another way home, any other way home, so that no other parent has to suffer what I suffer through on a daily basis.”

The Red Ribbon Tree Ceremony is offered as a tangible remembrance of each victim. It also occurs at this time of year to raise public awareness that holiday celebrations often lead to unsafe driving decisions.