The massive .950-caliber bullet – roughly an inch wide and four inches long – has been compared to the round of a World War I tank. It’s one of the biggest bullets ever. Most of us can’t imagine its destructive capability.
But for sheer killing power, it’s got nothing on the normal, everyday family vehicle.
In some cases, the motor vehicle has become the weapon of choice among homicidal maniacs and terrorists. One such monster plowed into a Bastille Day crowd in Nice, France, last July, killing more than 80. A similar truck attack at a Christmas market in Berlin last December killed 12 and injured 56.
“It used to be that we worried about truck bombs,” writes CNN’s Peter Bergen. “Now we have to worry about trucks used as weapons.”
But as highway workers and emergency personnel have always known, vehicles can be weapons whether used intentionally or carelessly. A bullet doesn’t care whether it’s been fired purposely. Whether homicidal or accidental, a car kills just as readily, regardless of the driver’s intent.
We saw that in the Mardi Gras crash just last month when an alleged drunk driver careened into a crowd, injuring several dozen.
And we’ve seen it here at home this week.
Two South Carolina Department of Transportation workers were killed Monday, and another injured, when a car veered off the road and struck them as they inspected a ditch on Augusta Road near Storm Branch Road in Aiken County.
Adding insult to injury and death is the fact that the motorist, identified as Augustan Lonnie Dean Miller, 29, left the scene of the fatality wreck. He was arrested later.
Providing further affront is word that Miller has a long, winding record of traffic and criminal offenses.
“In the past decade,” writes The Chronicle’s Bianca Cain Johnson, “Lonnie Dean Miller, 29, has more than 30 cases in Richmond County involving traffic-related or criminal offenses. At least six of those involved driving with no license or license suspended/revoked. Other traffic charges include speeding in a construction zone in 2006 and hit and run in 2004, as well as tickets for running a red light, improper movements, reckless driving, fleeing and attempting to elude, failure to maintain lane, improper passing and passing in a no passing zone.
“His criminal history also includes several arrests for marijuana possession and obstruction of a law enforcement officer. In 2014 during his latest criminal arrest, he was sentenced to six years probation for charges of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.”
If true, this was no accident. It was an accident waiting to happen. Do we need a “no-drive list” for motorists similar to the nation’s “no-fly list” for terrorists?
This is the absolute worst nightmare come to life for road workers and their kin. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to the families of deceased SCDOT workers Anthony J. Redmond, 54, of Warrenville, and Robert Clark, 64, of Aiken – and to the entire SCDOT family, as well as DOT and contract workers in the entire region.
Building and maintaining roads while cars and trucks whiz by only feet away is hazardous enough. In fact, a DOT public information officer in Kansas was nearly run down recently while appearing on television. These men and women paving the way for the rest of us to ride comfortably from place to place certainly don’t need the added peril of reckless drivers who arguably should never be allowed behind the wheel.
Lawmakers should examine whether our laws protect these folks enough, and whether they adequately punish the most negligent drivers when they kill. And even before they do.
As for the rest of us: We need to remind ourselves that we’re driving weapons more deadly than any bullet ever made.