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Crash photo reinforces safe driving

The community suffered a tragic blow Sunday when 14-year-old middle school student Walker Atkinson was killed after losing control of his vehicle.

It was the top story on our front page, along with a photo of the wrecked Suburban. We knew when we went to press readers would have strong opinions on the decision to publish the photo. Sure enough, hours after the paper was published, we received a handful of messages lambasting the decision, asking why we did it and if we ever stopped to think about Atkinson’s family.

We hear you, and we understand why these questions arise when it involves horrific events such as these. We also understand the assumption that news organizations only publish these photos to sell papers or drive clicks.

The reason we publish photos of wreckage has nothing to do with sensationalism and everything to do with reinforcing the very present dangers on the road. Crash photos are hard to look at. They can also be powerful reminders of the potential consequences that come with the decisions we make behind the wheel. Though we don’t know the circumstances behind Sunday’s fatal crash, it doesn’t change the fact that all it takes is one choice – one text, one phone call, one distracted moment, one unbuckled seatbelt – to take a life. Crash photos, though shocking, send a message words simply cannot: Driving demands caution, safety and attentiveness. Ignoring that could lead to fatal consequences for you, your loved ones and others on the road.