EDITORIAL: Reopening adds danger on the road
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EDITORIAL: Reopening adds danger on the road

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The reopening of South Carolina’s economy has caused new worries about the spread of the coronavirus. But there are other notable dangers that should not be ignored while people are being urged to wear masks, wash hands and practice social distancing.

After three months of staying at home because of COVID-19, drivers are getting back on the road. And that means a downward trend in crash deaths in 2020 could change rapidly.

Motorists are being urged to avoid falling back into the dangerous driving habits revealed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index.

“The pandemic has highlighted the extent to which individual decisions and behaviors can impact the health and safety of others,” said Tiffany Wright, AAA spokesperson. “We need to remember that we are all ‘in this together’ when it comes to safety on the road as well.”

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The TSCI, which was conducted before the pandemic hit, shows a significant gap between what drivers consider dangerous and what they report doing themselves in the 30 days before the survey.

  • 94.3% of people perceive reading on a cell phone while driving as dangerous, yet nearly 39% say they have done just.
  • 96.2% perceive typing on a cell phone while driving as dangerous. Nearly 30% say they have done so.
  • 79.7% perceive talking on a handheld cell phone while driving as dangerous. More than 43% say they have done so.
  • 55% say driving 15 mph over the speed limit is dangerous. Nearly 43% have done so.
  • 64% say driving 10 mph over the speed limit is dangerous. More than 41% have done so.
  • 86% say driving through a red light is dangerous. More than 30% say they have done just that.
  • 96% say driving while tired and drowsy is dangerous, yet more than 23% have done so.
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In the realm of better news from the survey:

• 94% say driving after drinking enough to be over the legal limit is dangerous. Under 10% say they have done so.

• 69% say driving within an hour of using marijuana is dangerous. Just over 6% have done so.

• 88% say driving while using potentially impairing prescription drugs is dangerous. Under 6% say they have done so.

We can only hope that the numbers on driving while impaired reflect people being truthful. And while the numbers or phone use and speeding are not surprising, they are reason for all to reflect on the dangers of the road.

So far in 2020, South Carolina has had 412 deaths on the road. That is 51 less than the 463 at this time a year ago. Still, the state is on target to reach nearly 1,000 deaths on the roads this year. That fact alone should be enough to prompt a new commitment to caution and better driving.

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We join AAA in recommending:

• Out of sight, out of mind. Stow your smartphone away, turn it to airplane mode, or activate call/text blocking features like Apple’s Do Not Disturb.

• Slow down. Drivers tend to overestimate time saved by speeding. You’d have to travel 100 miles to save roughly five minutes, moving at 75 mph instead of 70 mph. Speed kills and isn’t worth the cost.

• Stay alert. Get adequate rest and stop driving if you become sleepy. Fatigue impacts reaction time, judgment, and vision, causing people who are very tired to behave in similar ways to those who are drunk.

• Drive sober. If you consume marijuana, alcohol or use potentially impairing prescription medications, then don’t drive. And if you’re going to drive, then don’t consume these substances. If you are taking prescription medications, visit Roadwise Rx to learn if they can impair driving.

• Watch for vulnerable road users. Biking and walking have soared in popularity this year, and it is the responsibility of every driver to watch and share the road safely with cyclists and pedestrians.

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