On Friday, July 17, 2020 my husband’s 23 year year old son, Adrian, was killed in a car crash on his way home from work. He lived with us, and he was taking his regular route home from Greensboro to Winston-Salem.
The weather was nice and sunny most of the day. I was working from home and my husband arrived home around 3. He was getting ready to take a weekend trip out of town while our younger son waited for Adrian’s arrival. They had plans to go shopping when Adrian got off work. Around 3:30, a very strong thunderstorm passed by our house with torrential rains. My husband and I watched from the doorway, as the rain poured down for 10-15 minutes, and then the sun came back out again.
About 4:00pm, we started getting worried. We knew Adrian should have been home because he had spoken to his brother a little earlier to say he was on the way. We called and texted asking him to let us know where he was; Adrian was a responsible young man and didn’t stray far from work and home. He took on a fatherly relationship to his brothers. If he said he was going to do something, he did it. This was not like him.
My husband was worried but needed to get on the road. By this time, he was supposed to have met his friends an hour ago. He kissed me goodbye and said, “Let me know the minute Adrian walks through the door”.
About 10 minutes after my husband left, the doorbell rang. The younger boy got to the door first, and when the police officer said my husband’s name, I sent our boy inside. There had been a crash, and Adrian was dead. He had been driving unsafely for the conditions, hydroplaning, losing control of his vehicle and off the road, hitting a raised manhole and slamming into a utility pole at Old Greensboro Road and Salem Landing. Adrian was killed instantly. He did not suffer.
The next week was a whirlwind. Funeral planning, decisions, lots of drives between Winston-Salem and Greensboro. My husband had lost a son, his younger brothers and my girls their brother, and we were all reeling from Adrian’s unexpected death. The questions.
They said he was passing someone on a double yellow line. Adrian would never do that. Why did he do that? Why was he driving too fast? Didn’t he know how hard it had rained, and that there’s always standing water at that spot? How could he have hit that manhole so perfectly that he flew into the utility pole and hit it many feet above the air, without breaking the pole? Why is that manhole so high off the ground in the first place? How could he have died so violently but still looked like an angel in his open casket? Did he suffer? Was he scared? How can he really be gone? Why? Why? Why?
“Why” seemed to be the question I needed answered, the most. We couldn’t question God’s plan for Adrian, but it felt like we needed to find out the purpose. As I began to think about the accident, which played over so many times in my head, it became important to not only figure out how unsafe Old Greensboro Road is, but to make people aware of it's dangers and campaign to make it safer.
First, why was Adrian crossing a double yellow line? There were witnesses that say that he was, but there are two reasons to believe that he wasn’t intentionally passing on a double yellow. In hydroplaning situations, you can slide in either direction. Who is to say that the water wasn’t moving him left? He likely was driving too fast for the conditions, but the police report doesn’t state that it was raining at the time. It could have just stopped, as it had at home, and was now sunny with blue skies, with water still standing on the roads. Southern daytime thunderstorms can be like that. Second, I don’t believe he intentionally crossed a double yellow line. The lines on Old Greensboro Road are old and peeling, and there are many areas where it is not apparent at all that it is intended to be a double yellow.
In the weeks that have followed Adrian’s death, we have travelled that stretch of Old Greensboro Road, between Salem Parkway and 158/Reidsville Road, many times. We visit the crash site, have a small memorial for him there, and notice how unsafe Old Greensboro Road actually is. Just down the hill, there is another small cross in remembrance of another life lost, several years ago.
A pass-through between Business 40/Salem Parkway and 311/Old Reidsville Road, Old Greensboro Road sees a lot of traffic. Heading west from Salem Parkway you’ll pass Smokin’ Harley on Myer Lee Drive to the left, a fire station down the road a bit on the right, and then you’re driving downhill as Salem Lake surrounds the road on the left and the right. The road moves back uphill toward the Salem Landing neighborhood on the right, and then Old Greensboro Road becomes winding, moving uphill, with a low shoulder. As Old Greensboro Road continues, it is wooded and mainly residential until you reach the intersection of 311/Old Reidsville Road.
That 1.1 mile, 2 minute stretch of road has proven to be dangerous. A review of the Winston-Salem Police Department’s Crash Report Database shows 66 reports made between January 1, 2018 - August 4, 2020 on Old Greensboro Road between West Mountain Street and Reidsville Road. Sixteen of those reports were made at Old Greensboro Road and Salem Landing Drive, where Adrian died. Six of those reports specifically mention a driver crossing a double yellow line, passing, or coming into the opposite side of travel.
There is nothing that we can say or do that will bring Adrian back, but we do want to bring awareness to the area and the issue of safety on this stretch of Old Greensboro Road. We have lost a loving son, brother, nephew, cousin, and friend. The city has an obligation to explore the dangers that cause so many accidents on Old Greensboro Road.
This year I have learned to take it one day at a time, pray everyday, have faith, and move forward. Life is short. Adrian, you will be missed. Rest in Peace.
Jessica Thomas Lewis
Jessica Thomas Lewis lives in Winston-Salem, NC. She is always looking for fun, free things to do with her kids.