That’s the message resident Alice Renolds, a mother who lost her two teenagers nearly 20 years ago in a high-speed car crash, told about 200 people Tuesday during the 14th annual Evening of Remembrance event in Central Park.
The event, hosted by the city of Santa Clarita, is held to remember local youth who have died in traffic-related incidents and serve as a reminder to drive safely. Attendees gathered at the half-acre Youth Grove, which is made up of mimic tree stumps that contain the names of those who have died to symbolize lives cut short. With the addition of seven names added this year, the total count adds to 114.
“I know I couldn’t do it again if I were to lose her. Please, Santa Clarita teens and adults, slow down. I could not bear the thought of burying a grandchild,” said Renolds, who was accompanied by her granddaughter Lexi and husband, Tom.
Though the parents, who helped establish the Youth Grove and Evening of Remembrance, have attended the annual event since its start, this year was a little different as 14-year-old Lexi will soon learn to drive.
“My 15th birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks, and with that comes learning how to drive and being on the road with other teen drivers,” said Lexi. “I’ll also be the age that Dany (her uncle) was when he died, and that scares me.”
She pledged to be careful when behind the wheel or with others while in a car.
Mayor Marsha McLean encouraged the rest of the community to do the same.
“I urge every person of every age to pledge to be more cautious and aware, whether driving a car or on a bicycle or crossing the street,” she said. “We have to make sure that no more are added to this grove, and we must all pledge to be safe, sober and focused when driving.”
Mayor Pro Tem Cameron Smyth mirrored the Renolds’ sentiments, sharing that this year, too, was different from the rest as his son will soon start to drive.
Though distracted driving and driving under the influence are among the top causes for traffic-related collisions, Don Gore said speeding is perhaps the biggest local issue, in addition to being the cause of his son Collin’s death, he said.
Collin, a high school graduate who had been accepted to San Diego State University, was driving home one night in 2017 when a drunk driver crashed his vehicle into the 18-year-old’s car, after driving at speeds higher than 90 mph down McBean Parkway, killing both drivers.
“Watch your speed when you’re on the road any time of day because it’s the speed that killed both of them,” said Don. “Be aware of everyone on the road even though you’re doing everything right. It’s other people on the road that you have to be concerned about, too.”