Community comes together for World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims

WWSB ABC7 News at 6pm
Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 5:28 PM EST
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BRADENTON, Fla. (WWSB) - Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Transportation and Advocates for Road Safety gathered on Friday to remember, support and act to create safer roads.

The event is about honoring the victims of crashes and minimizing the amount of people that lose a loved one at the hands of irresponsible drivers.

This is something one Suncoast resident knows the feeling of all too well. 20 years ago, Melissa Wandall’s life changed forever.

“My husband said, ‘I love you Melissa and I am going to miss you.’ and I said, ‘We’ll I’ll miss you too silly but I am going to see you in a couple of hours,’” said Melissa.

Her husband Mark left the house to get a bite to eat but never came back.

“I got a call that there was a crash just a mile from our home, and it didn’t look like my husband was going to make it,” said Melissa.

A driver ran a red light at the corner of SR-70 and Tara Blvd. hitting and killing her husband.

Wandall was nine months pregnant at the time of the fatal crash.

“Two weeks later, our daughter was born. When I held her in my arms, I promised her that she would know who her father was in this lifetime,” said Melissa.

Her daughter Madisyn turned 20 earlier this week, without her father there to join in the celebration.

“My heart is broken for my daughter because she deserved to know my husband, and my husband deserved to know her,” said Melissa.

The unimaginable pain sparked an advocacy journey for Melissa who is now an ambassador for the Florida Department of Transportation’s Target Zero campaign.

Target Zero is a statewide initiative to reduce the number of transportation-related serious injuries and deaths across Florida to zero.

Now Wandall spends much of her time calling for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists to do their part.

“We all have to take care of each other. We have to be mindful and utilize these roadways in a mindful way, and obey all traffic safety laws,” said Melissa.