The Iowa State Patrol and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau decorated and lit the “Tree of Life” Wednesday in hopes of making people more aware of the dangers posed by unsafe driving during the month of December.

 State Troopers wound a string of lights around the tree in a conference room of the Public Safety building in Des Moines, and Captain Curt Henderson explained the symbolism in the lights.

He says the white lights represent drivers traveling the state who have reached their destinations safely. Henderson says if there is a fatality, they will replace a white light with a green light. And if that fatality involves alcohol, they’ll put in a red light. Henderson says they hope the tree will remind people of the importance of driving safely.

Henderson says, “The holiday seasons are an important time where we really need to raise our level of awareness for traffic safety.” He says we were reminded just this week of “unspeakable tragedy” where a three year old and five year old boy died in a traffic accident in western Iowa near Red Oak. “That kind of tragedy is the kind of tragedy that changes a family’s perspective of the holiday season forever, and it’s something that we want to do what we can to keep it from happening again,” Henderson said.

Green lights on the "Tree of Life will signify a traffic death, red lights indicate alcohol was involved.

Larry Sauer of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau says having a December without a loss of life on the roadways is the ultimate goal. He says motorists can help by staying alert to changing weather conditions, and be aware that some people might not be taking the same precautions.

Sauer you should report “suspicious drivers” and he says texting is a big concern right now and you should be aware that other drivers may be texting, they may also be driving intoxicated.

“So you have to drive for the other driver as you traverse to your destination,” Sauer says. Twenty-four people died in traffic accidents in December of last year and seven were alcohol related.