The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

Opinion

June 11, 2014

Lives depend on how we drive

Local roads and highways have been the scene of six motor vehicle accident fatalities over the past week.

Let that sink in for a moment: six people have died while driving on area roads. Weather hasn’t played much of a part, if at all. There are no new intersections or highways to confuse drivers. No events have significantly increased traffic flow.

There is no one factor to blame in these accidents. Poor road planning and construction, tired or impaired drivers, and human error all played their part. Some of these factors cannot be mitigated, but others can. It’s important to remember the following:

— Rural roads are not well-lit and can be dangerous at night. If possible, avoid driving late at night or early in the morning, when visibility is reduced and drivers are tired.

— Take time to map out your routes before you get into your car, so as to avoid attempting to read a GPS or mobile app while driving

— Slow down and take your time if you are lost or tired. Even if you are going to reach your destination later than you would like to, that option is better than getting into an accident

— Pay attention to road signs and slow down in construction zones. The I-30 construction in Royse City has narrowed lanes, and potholes have become an issue. Be careful when driving through this area, or take an alternate route, such as Highway 66 or 380

— Under no circumstances get behind the wheel of a car after you have been drinking. Buzzed driving is drunk driving

Additionally, the Texas Department of Transportation, with the assistance of local cities and counties, needs to spend the time and money to fix troublespots in our area. The service road along I-30E near where the fatal accident occurred Thursday morning switches from two-way to one-way, and it is possible for individuals to confuse the exit ramp with an on-ramp. Loop 286 in Paris, the scene of the fatal accident involving two Texas A&M University-Commerce basketball players, is a divided highway with four total lanes controlled by stop signs and caution lights, but not stoplights. Since 2000, five individuals have died in accidents at the Loop 286 and FM 1497 intersection.

This data, combined with common sense and easily-studied traffic patterns, should be enough for TxDOT to implement changes to prevent more fatal accidents for occurring. The department is reportedly studying the Paris intersection to determine how to avoid more fatal crashes, but these changes have to be made sooner rather than later to avoid further fatalities.

Ultimately, however, the responsibility to keep our roads safe falls to individual drivers. It is up to us to drive cautiously and carefully, to avoid deadly distractions like texting and talking on the phone, and to educate our teenagers and young adults how to drive safely.

Their lives, and ours, depend on it.

This opinion reflects that of the Herald-Banner editorial board. The board can be reached at editor@heraldbanner.com.

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