The deaths of two young men this week who played football at Fairmont High School illustrate just how fragile life is — and how treacherous this county’s vast network of asphalt can be.
Tyreke Addison and Nokolma Hunt, each 18 years old and recent high school graduates, had promising futures. We haven’t heard a bad word uttered about either, and their deaths have resulted in a dark cloud that hangs not only over Fairmont, but all of Robeson County. People are asking the question for which there is no answer: Why?
Addison and Hunt were in a car with three other teenagers when the vehicle hydroplaned on a slick highway and crashed into a tree Monday night. If there is mercy to be found, it’s that three youths survived, including one at Duke University Medical Center whose future is uncertain.
The accident generated headlines not only in this newspaper, but across the state, probably because the young men involved were athletes. But the sad truth is, this is a story that is written almost every week in Robeson County, where you can count on about 50 people dying each year on our highways. That number has remained remarkably steady in recent years even as there has been a dramatic drop in the number of road fatalities in the United States.
During 2010, the number of road deaths in the United States fell to a 60-year low, at 37,888, and represented about a 40 percent reduction from a peak in the early 197os of about 55,000 deaths a year. This has been achieved, primarily because of tougher laws and better-built vehicles, even as the number of motorists has risen dramatically.
We don’t have a good explanation on why there hasn’t been a corresponding dip in fatalities on Robeson County’s roads, except that a number of factors conspire against that happening. Interstate 95 only gets more and more crowded as it awaits planned renovations, this county is flush with state highways that carry folks to the beach, and our demographics guarantee an unacceptable number of motorists with no respect for the laws, who don’t buckle up and drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
There is nothing to suggest anything but horrible luck took the lives of those two teenagers on Monday night. Their deaths are a tragic reminder of the perils that lurk — one we could have done without.