Sunday, Dec. 25, 2005
responsibility needed to prevent fatal wrecks
SC Statehouse Report
23, 2005 - - A thousand too many funerals are held each year.
They're for people killed in car wrecks across South Carolina.
This year, the state is coming perilously close to breaking
1972's all-time traffic fatality record of 1,099 deaths on
state highways. By Dec. 20, some 1,053 people had died on
"If we had any other thing killing a thousand people
a year, people would be raising Cain!" said Sid Gaulden,
spokesman for the S.C. Department of Public Safety.
Most of the deaths were accidental and simply shouldn't have
happened. They're tragic. They fill families with grief. They
shorten bright lives for no understandable reason.
"The leading causation of most collisions, whether they're
fatal or not, is driver inattention - - not paying attention
to what you're doing when you're driving," Gaulden said.
It's often easy to forget that a car speeding down a highway
can be more than a means of transportation. In unsafe hands,
it can be a two-ton killing machine.
With the hectic pace of modern life - - cell phones ringing,
screaming kids, blaring stereos, bad drivers on the road,
traffic, congestion and the like - - it's understandable how
drivers can become distracted.
But drivers need to remember they're in charge of what can
be an accidental weapon.
Authorities say the biggest thing that can be done to curb
traffic fatalities is for people to take more personal responsibility
when they're driving:
- Pay attention.
- Slow down.
- Don't answer the cell phone.
- Drive defensively.
- Remain calm.
By taking more responsibility, South Carolina's drivers can
do more than any new law to reduce traffic deaths. Still,
there are policy decisions lawmakers can make to further cut
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Just this month, for example, the state took a huge step
forward with the start of a primary seat belt law that allows
law enforcement officers to stop cars when drivers aren't
wearing seat belts. Gaulden said a comparison of figures from
a nine-day period in December 2004 to a similar period in
December 2005 showed the number of people who died in car
wrecks who were not wearing seatbelts dropped from 77 percent
to 56 percent.
While early results show a promising trend, other things
lawmakers could do to curb traffic deaths include:
Hire more troopers. Twelve years ago, the state
had 1,019 highway patrol troopers. By 2000, the number dropped
to 961. With budget cuts in recent years, the S.C. Highway
Patrol currently has about 820 troopers. Gov. Mark Sanford
is on to a good idea of increasing the number of troopers
by 100. More troopers mean more enforcement, which means
people will slow down and lives will be saved.
Increase aerial enforcement. A few years ago, the
state had a vigorous aerial enforcement program that used
surveillance to target and stop risky speeders. It worked,
according to one former top highway official. But the program
got axed when a good number of the speeders turned out to
be law enforcement officials.
Stricter enforcement. The state tends to have laws
on the books that it doesn't fully enforce, the official
noted. If people knew they would get speeding tickets for
going faster than the posted speed, the roadways would be
Tougher penalties. Lawmakers could consider toughening
penalties for people involved in accidental deaths. Such
penalties likely would have a deterring effect, officials
noted, and encourage safer driving.
Curb aggressive driving. The state could develop
and implement strategies for reducing aggressive driving
- - the "road rage" phenomenon.
More drivers' education. Young drivers - - those
under 25 - - tend to be more reckless and distracted. More
driver education - - particularly on consequences of road
rage - - could be helpful.
Intervention. Drivers at the ends of the age spectrum
- - young ones with new licenses and elderly ones who may
not be as quick to react - - tend to be less safe. Lawmakers
may want to authorize a mechanism to allow the state to
intervene and re-examine their driving privilege when they
are involved in an accident.
Let's not break 1972's death record this holiday season.
Slow down. Be smart. Drive safely.
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
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Workers' comp needs different overhaul
To the editor:
I am appalled at the changes in the workman's comp that are
being considered. I was a paramedic for 10 yrs. I gave 100%
to the people I helped. Now 2 1/2 yrs after my injury, I was
pumped full of pain killers, lied to, and now my case is closed..
and I have a disc sitting on my spinal cord with a risk of
one wrong move, and I do not walk! You say it needs to be
overhauled.. you are right, but how about looking out more
for the taxpayers and less on the insurance companies!! People
are making decisions on peoples lives here...whatever happened
to the value of human life! I have forwarded this page to
as many reporters that I can find in the state. The working
public needs to hear your wonderful ideas!
-- Name withheld upon request, Aiken, S.C.
property tax will hurt disabled vets,
Manuel Bettencourt, Hilton Head Island, SC
more to property tax changes, Tom
Hatfield, Hilton Head Island, SC
to do something on illegal immigration,
Bob Logan, Little River, SC
problems are inexcusable, Sue
Womack, Pawley's Island, SC
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political news items from the past week:
Reggie Lloyd. The state circuit judge becomes the
first African-American to be nominated to be U.S. Attorney
for the District of South Carolina.
Jim Clyburn. The congressman rises in leadership to
head the House Democratic Caucus - - the highest leadership
position of South Carolina's Washington delegation.
Duke Power. People in the Upstate are rightly upset
for having to go so long without power - - some more than
John Graham Altman. The state representative continues
to spew his Neanderthalic vision on immigration - - this time
on national TV this week.
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