Feb. 26, 2014 at 2:59 PM ET
Any parent who's ever buckled a child into a car seat knows the drill: You lean into the car, fumbling with those buckles and latches, while traffic whizzes by. That common scene turned deadly for an Arlington, Va., mom this week.
Jennifer Lawson, 39, was struck and killed by a dump truck outside of her son's school on Monday. Her minivan was parked on a narrow road bordering Nottingham Elementary School in Arlington, and she was struck in the middle of the day as she was reaching into the car for her child. The force of the crash ripped off the minivan's side door.
The driver of the dump truck has not been charged and is cooperating in the investigation, NBC Washington reports.
"Our community is very sad right now," said Nottingham PTA president Mary Zehe. "She was friendly, outgoing, and enjoyed supporting the school."
Dan Regard, a family spokesman, described Lawson as a "passionate runner" and a "devoted mother" to her three children — ages 2, 4 and 5. Her oldest son attends Nottingham.
The freak accident serves as a reminder for parents and drivers to be especially vigilant in school zones.
"Unfortunately, this is a tragic wake-up call for us all," said John Townsend, manager for public affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.
In 2011, 4,432 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes — a 3 percent increase over the previous year but well below the 4,851 traffic-related deaths reported in 2002, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Townsend reminds parents not to load and unload kids on the traffic side of the road, keep children away from the front and back of the car, look both ways for oncoming traffic and always assume that other drivers on the road cannot see them.
The family is still deciding how to honor Lawson, said Regard, adding that the family is "grateful, humbled and overwhelmed" by the support of their community.
"She was a giving person," he said.