Troopers: Traffic fatalities take emotional toll on everyone

Troopers: Traffic fatalities take emotional toll on everyone
State troopers explain the emotional difficulty of contacting family members after loved ones were killed in wrecks (Source: WBRC)
Tatnisha Reynolds (Source: WBRC)
Tatnisha Reynolds (Source: WBRC)
Corporal Steve Smith (Source: WBRC)
Corporal Steve Smith (Source: WBRC)

JEFFERSON COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - Alabama State troopers have investigated 93 fatal traffic accidents so far this year. Forty of those deaths were just this month.

And remember, it's just February.

We spoke with a state trooper who reminds us that these fatalities take a toll on everyone. Troopers said they're humans, too.

And having to tell family members their loved one has died in a car wreck is as terrible as it sounds.

"If a state trooper knocks on your door, we're generally going to be bearing bad news for you," said ALEA Corporal Steve Smith.

It's the toughest part of Corporal Smith's job -- notifying families when their child, their sibling or their spouse has been killed in a wreck.

"Christmas, probably about 15 years ago, a husband died on his way home from work," Corporal Smith recalled.  "Me and the chaplain went to the wife's home. She said, 'Trooper, I know why you're here. My husband's been killed in a car crash. She said, 'We were high school sweethearts.  We dated since we were 15 ... but when you knocked on my door, I knew exactly what happened.'  And that particular death notification always rings true with me."

And no matter how many fatal wrecks Corporal Smith has worked during his 21 years with ALEA, he said it doesn't get easier.

"You can't turn it off," he said.  "You have to do your job.  But it's still an emotional event for anyone."

For Tatnisha Reynolds, 'emotional' doesn't come close to describe her pain.

Both her daughter and nephew died in car wrecks within a year of one another.

"It definitely has opened my eyes to a lot of things that I was doing before these two accidents that hit home for me," she said.

Now, Reynolds and Corporal Smith share a heightened sense of caution when they're behind the wheel.

They both hope more drivers will think of their tragic experiences before hitting the road.

And when troopers say buckling up saves live, they mean it.

Out of the 93 fatalities so far this year, ALEA said more than half of those killed were not wearing seatbelts.

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