Dec. 19, 2014, a day scheduled to celebrate Christmas with my mom, sisters and stepfamily. All dressed in our best, wine in the fridge, food in the oven, almost everyone had arrived.

Everyone except my sister, Mary, and her son; she was frequently late, so we brushed it off until she wouldn’t answer her phone. Call it sister intuition, but myself and other two sisters had an eerie feeling.

We rushed to leave the house and drive to find her, hoping we would meet her on the highway. Instead, we met the scene of a car accident. Ambulances, fire trucks, emergency workers and bystanders all became a blur as I saw her Jeep and the car that had hit her.

We saw my nephew, who seemed to be uninjured, and the woman who hit her loaded in the ambulance. She also appeared to have minor injuries, nothing life-threatening. The emergency workers told us everyone involved was wearing a seat belt. We gave ourselves hope and rushed to the hospital to meet her ambulance. When we arrived, the clerk simply stated, “Girls, they’re coding her.”

Dec. 19, a day set aside to share love and joy among my family, turned into my worst nightmare. Christmas, which was a day to look forward to, was now just a day in the way of planning her funeral.

Don’t let your holidays turn into a nightmare. Buckle up, put down the phone, and put the brakes on fatalities.

Kitt Zillinger is from Almena and is a student at Fort Hays State University. She wrote this as part of a blog for the Kansas Department of Transportation.