Traffic safety awareness

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 5, 2004

As Suffolk continues to burst at the seams and traffic congestion increases, automobile accidents are becoming an all-to-familiar scene.

On Wednesday, Mayor Bobby Ralph helped the Pilot Club of Suffolk dedicate its Safety Tree in front of the Health Department on North Main Street.

The annual Pilot Club project is designed to focus driver attention on traffic safety during the holidays so that fewer families needlessly have to suffer the tragic loss of a loved one during this joyous time.

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It’s a worthy cause. However, traffic safety is a no less worthy cause during other times of the year and it’s something of which we all need to be cognizant.

Apart from alcohol, probably the biggest cause of accidents are the many distractions with which drivers have to contend, chief among them being cell phones. While we continue to encourage readers to turn them off while they are in the cars, they are not the focus of today’s editorial.

Many of the accidents we’re seeing involve young people – new drivers. It’s the same across the country and in Maryland; the legislature is considering wise moves that will help alleviate the problem.

The Washington Post reported Saturday that the Maryland legislature is looking at a proposal to limit the number of passengers that provisional drivers may have in their vehicles.

Kevin Quinlan of the National Transportation Safety Board called it the measure &uot;the first and foremost effective measure you can take,&uot; according to the Post.

It’s not possible to eliminate every distraction, but as Susan Ferguson of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety noted, it is clear that additional passengers can encourage young drivers to take risks they otherwise might not. She said studies show that the risk of a crash increases with each additional passenger.

There is no Virginia restriction on the number of passengers young drivers may carry. Therefore, it is up to parents to lay down the law and let their children know the dangers and stop them from taking the risk.

We salute the Pilot Club for helping to raise the level of traffic safety awareness. It’s up to us to see that it succeeds.