Eyes on the road

From distractions to dangers, we've got to make our roads safer

Tyler J. Smith’s life had ultimate meaning, even compressed as it was into 14 short years. Just the love and happiness he brought to family and friends gave his existence a deep significance and lasting value.

That import is intrinsic, placed there lovingly by our maker.

Now that he’s been taken, in what appears to be a true and tragic accident, it’s up to society to grapple with the meaning of his death.

There are a number of vital elements to the manner of his death Thursday; he was on a go-kart just off busy Hardy McManus Road in Evans where he lived when a reportedly distracted driver veered off the road and struck and pinned him beneath a pickup truck.

First, of course, there’s the matter of the alleged distraction. Authorities say the driver, Kenneth Gill, 58, of North Augusta, was apparently looking at his cell phone at the time.

Then there’s the road conditions: The weather was not a factor, nor the lighting – it was 11 a.m. on a beautiful fall day. No, what may have contributed to the crash is the fact that Hardy McManus, 45-mph in most stretches, is a winding road with almost no shoulder. And in that particular portion, in front of Woodruff Way subdivision, drivers are cautioned to slow to 35 mph for the curve, which leads to an active railroad crossing.

The road’s supposed shoulder also slopes dramatically, near low-lying wetland.

There are more dangerous roads out there, but there are a lot safer ones, too. There’s simply little room for error on such roadways. The two-lane and unendingly winding William Few Parkway, from Washington Road to Columbia Road, is another example, and has hosted its own fatal accidents.

A number of roads in Columbia County trace their origin to more rural days in which road planners and builders frequently took the path of least resistance, leading to narrow roads that take multiple twists and turns.

That was then, but this is now. The county’s population, and therefore its vehicular traffic, has exploded in recent years and decades – and, as is often the case, the roads haven’t kept up. Not by a long-shot.

We would urge officials to consider straightening and
widening Hardy McManus, or moving up any plans to do so.

We would also beg area drivers to use this tragedy to be safer yourselves. Slow down. Signal. Obey the speed limits. Don’t pass others on a narrow, twisting road that features two solid yellow lines indicating it’s illegal to pass.

And by all means, put down the phones!

There is no indication that the driver in this case was speeding or doing anything imprudent other than diverting his attention to his cell phone. That’s all it takes, in many cases – especially on that winding, narrow road so indigenous to this area. Just a moment of distraction can lead to drift. Drift can lead to death.

Lives are on the line.

And sometimes, they’re just a few feet outside one.

Evans accident kills teen, injures brother
Police suspect cell phone distraction led to crash that killed 14-year-old in Evans

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Sat, 03/25/2017 - 22:13

Rick McKee Editorial cartoon

Sat, 03/25/2017 - 22:15

Where’s the balance?