Editorial Roundup: South Dakota

Yankton Press & Dakotan. June 7, 2022.

Editorial: Summer Travel: The Biggest Problem We Face

Two immutable facts are upon us: Summer is here and Americans will be hitting the road.

Even with inflation and gas prices soaring, U.S. motorists will do a lot of traveling in the months ahead. They may be taking shorter trips in some cases, but they’ll be on the move all the same.

And therein, danger lurks.

That’s the worry of the AAA, which has labeled summertime as the “Deadliest 100 Days” of driver safety in this country.

A story in Tuesday’s Press & Dakotan examined the concerns — heightened by the fact that national traffic fatalities last year hit a 16-year high, increasing more than 10% over 2020, according to federal statistics.

That’s why AAA officials are urging even more caution out on the roadways this summer …

But many motorists never really think much about that as they go about their daily rituals of getting in a car or truck and either taking a long trip or driving down to a store to pick up some items. Even short trips in town can lead to issues. And rural areas have problems just like congested urban areas.

All these dangers are heightened in the summer, when more drivers are on the road.

In addition, young drivers are out of school and hitting the road. Shawn Steward of AAA South Dakota noted that teen drivers are relatively inexperienced and bring different risk factors to the roadways.

But it isn’t just youth and inexperience that are the problems, as the national fatality rate is up across the board in all age groups. There are issues with distracted driving, which has become one of the top risks on the roads. Drivers who are impaired by alcohol or drugs also present issues. Meanwhile, motorists (including passengers) who don’t use seatbelts can contribute to the problem, too.

Defensive driving is a must. You can do everything right when you are behind the wheel, but you could still wind up in harm’s way because of the actions of other drivers. In this age of ever-increasing distractions, this is particularly true. (Back in the 1970s, there was a safety campaign that featured the slogan, “Watch out for the other guy.” That sage advice still applies now.)

“You really have to drive defensively because so many people just don’t seem to be paying attention to the road when they’re driving,” Steward said. “That’s a scary thing when you’re driving a vehicle that weighs a ton or a couple of tons. Those are dangerous weapons if you’re striking another vehicle and not aware of what’s going on around you.”

But the biggest problem you face is the fact that you know all this already. You know you need to keep your eyes on the road and stay alert and aware. Keeping it all in mind when you get behind the wheel and hit the road may be the most challenging hurdle each of us faces. And summer only heightens the need — and the demand — for caution.