When I woke to the loud booms of the firecrackers, I knew it was midnight and officially 2020.

I walked to the window to watch the colorful show in the distance and turned on my police scanner to find things were remarkably quiet. My thoughts took me back to the year 2000 and I had to smile at how we all wondered what would happen at midnight. Would we still have internet? Would our telecommunications system crash? What about the stock market? Would the world end? It sounds kind of silly 20 years down the road.

The world has changed since then, and there are things our children and grandchildren are concerned about today that never crossed our minds then. Today, we think about how to get to our car safely in a parking lot. We wonder whether the person standing next to us is going to try to rob us, or if they mean to do harm at our local school stadium during a game.

Today’s parents must think about taking precautions so their child won’t be grabbed off the street by traffickers. We look at approaching vehicles for an open window where a gun could be pointed at us as we drive past. We worry whether our kids are safe at school and hope they won’t encounter drugs or guns while they are trying to learn. Heck, today we even must plan for our personal safety when we worship.

Personal safety when you are in public might be new for some of us, but safe practices are nothing new to TxDOT. We work to build a culture of safety across the state that includes year-round safety campaigns with a goal of keeping you safe in public.

When you hear about Distracted Driving, Click It or Ticket, Motorcycle Safety Week, Work Zone Safety, Child Passenger Safety, Sober Rides, End The Streak or other safety messages, our professionals have already been months in planning and gathering data to get the point across of how planning ahead to be safe plays a big part in our everyday lives.

There are many challenges in today’s world. Through those challenges, TxDOT works to reinforce the public’s confidence that no matter what happens in our daily lives, we will always work to keep the roadways open and clear in any emergency, whether those emergencies are caused by flooding, winter storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, a vehicle crash or an act of terrorism.

When these things occur, we work to clear roadways so that first responders will always have a clear path to our businesses, our homes, our schools, our churches and so that you can find a clear path to safety.

We respond daily and we have done it now for more than 100 years. Growing a safe community, city, county and state takes many, many people actively involved in that process. TxDOT is only one of the agencies that stands ready to help make that happen.

I hope as we start this new year, that you resolve to stay safe by making a personal safety plan. Stay alert to your surroundings and put down the phone when you drive.

Safety doesn’t just happen to any of us, we must plan for it. Once we all plan our days with safety in mind, it is likely we will look back on 2020 somewhere down the road, just like we did 2000.

Rhonda Oaks is the public information officer for TxDOT’s Lufkin district. Her email address is Rhonda.Oaks@txdot.gov.