It's been said many, many times over the years by public information officers for the Ohio Department of Transportation, but I'll say it again: Slow down. Save a life, possibly your own.

On Tuesday, Feb. 2, a truly wonderful gentleman from Highland County lost his life in an accident on U.S. 62 at the Point Liberty Road intersection in New Market Township. Scott Richardson, 56, had just left the New Market store and gas station around noon. He guided his horse-drawn wagon (Scott called it a wagon and not a buggy, according to his friend and longtime HCP columnist Jim Thompson) southward on U.S. 62. This was his usual route to and from the store, as he lived on Fair Ridge Road, about halfway between Fairfax and Sugar Tree Ridge.

As we reported courtesy of the Wilmington Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, at approximately 12:07 p.m. Feb. 2, Corey Gardner, 18, of West Union, was operating a 2006 Chevrolet Impala southbound on U.S. 62 when his vehicle struck the horse-drawn wagon operated by Scott. Numerous first-responders rushed to the scene, including Miami Valley Hospital's Care Flight unit. He was flown to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton with serious injuries.

Scott was pronounced dead at Miami Valley Hospital Tuesday evening.

His horse, most likely "Rocket," his favorite wagon horse, was euthanized at the scene due to the injuries sustained in the crash, which remains under investigation by the Wilmington Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

I was told today that one of Scott's neighbors in Concord Township, Mary Burchett-Leston, said she has spoken with a friend of Scott's family who said to let everyone know that the family could use prayers – and they have no hard feelings toward the young man involved in this accident.

From what I have read, that is not unusual for families in the Mennonite and Amish communities. Forgiveness is simply one virtue of their moral standards and beliefs. We all should admire that and try to live by it.

"Scott was a wonderful friend," Jim Thompson said today. "He was gentle, humble and God-fearing. A great example. Prayers for his family and the entire Sugar Tree Ridge Mennonite Community."

Scott and I have shared some good, old-fashioned USPS-delivered correspondences over the years. In fact, my son, Colin, and I have delivered The Highland County Press to Scott and his family for almost a decade.

In his first letter to me, Scott described where he lived as the "former Burns' farm on Fair Ridge Road."

Even though I already knew where he lived, I liked that. Anyone who grew up in Fairfax in the 1960s and '70s, would recognize the Burns' farm just like we would know the Dickey homes or the Walkers or the Fites or the Naces. It was – and is – a wonderful, rural community. (By the way, the Ryans lived at the corner of Whiskey and Crooked roads, and I'm not sure if anyone remembers us. But that's OK, too.)

With the tragic and likely avoidable accident that claimed Scott Richardson, I would ask everyone to think about all of our Amish and Mennonite neighbors, as well as the farmers on slow-moving agricultural equipment to heed the warnings from ODOT and slow down.

This afternoon on S.R. 247 south of Hillsboro, I drove just past Kingdom Hall and as I topped the hill, I saw a tractor with a wagon behind it. I immediately stopped and put on the hazard signals in case any oncoming traffic approached. It delayed my drive by less than five minutes.

This isn't complicated stuff. It is common highway courtesy that Denny Thompson used to teach in driver's education classes at Whiteoak High School. When you are behind the wheel of a vehicle capable of moving more than 100 miles per hour, you must be in control of that vehicle. Do not use your cell phone or send a text or let yourself be distracted. Focus on the WIN principle when driving: What's Important Now. When you are driving, everyone's safety is important.

Highland and neighboring counties have many residents in the Amish and Mennonite communities who travel by horse-drawn carriages. Those of us who drive with much heavier and faster vehicles must be alert and share these roadways. Granted, in these times, it is easy to become distracted for the simple fact that we have so many distractions (mostly from those abominable cell phones).

If there is any one thing that can come from Scott Richardson's untimely death, let it be this: It cannot happen again. Slow down. Focus on the principles of safe driving. Think of your friends and neighbors with whom you share these roadways. Please.

Godspeed, Scott Richardson.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.