Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Weekend Safety Motorists Urged to Be Cautious

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Weekend Safety Motorists Urged to Be Cautious

Article excerpt

Becky and Tommy van Londen were four years apart, but they were

best friends.

A tomboy, Becky would tag along to play with her big brother.

And, always protective, he'd bring her home safely when she'd

take a tumble and bruise or scrape something.

Car wrecks claimed both their lives: She died at 23, and was

buried Valentine's Day 1994. He died at 29 Jan. 6.

Grief stricken, their parents, Jessie and Walt van Londen

discussed the tragedy that has twice visited their close-knit

family, hoping it will spur others to drive more carefully.

"One second, that's all it takes," said Jessie van Londen, who

with her husband has two other grown children. "Both my children

were gone in one second's time."

Last year over the Memorial Day weekend, 35 people died in car

wrecks in Florida -- two in Duval County, the Florida Highway

Patrol said. Most of the victims weren't wearing seat belts and

nearly half the crashes involved alcohol.

Speed limits have been raised in several areas -- all of

Interstate 295 is now 65 mph, and Interstate 95 is 70 mph from

the state line to just north of Dunn Avenue, and south of Butler

Boulevard. But extra troopers will be out this weekend, strictly

enforcing speed and seat belt laws, said Lt. Bill Leeper.

"Don't drink and drive. Wear your seat belt," he advised

drivers. "If you're going out of town, leave early to allow for

[delays]. Don't tailgate. Pay attention to your driving."

The van Londens' advice is more personal, more poignant.

"Please, don't think it can't happen to you," said Jessie van

Londen. "It can happen to somebody twice -- I know."

Becky van Londen was a senior studying music at Florida State

University before she died. Talented, yet shy of the spotlight,

she hoped to do voice-overs for Disney.

She called the whole family the night she died. She was coming

home from Tallahassee to see her sister's new baby, and phoned

to let them know when she would arrive.

But a speeding police car rammed the Jeep Wrangler Becky van

Londen was riding home in. She wasn't wearing a seat belt --

there wasn't one in her friend's back seat -- and was thrown

from the Jeep, a Highway Patrol accident report said. …

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