Alert and ready

Published 10:07 pm Monday, July 4, 2011

A death on the Eastern Shore of Virginia early Monday morning illustrates the danger inherent in an activity that has become popular all over the place, and no less so in Suffolk.

Police say that the 39-year-old driver of a 2004 Pontiac GTO was headed eastbound on Route 126 in Onancock when he came across an ATV being driven by a 28-year-old man in the same direction, without headlights or taillights. Attempting to avoid hitting the ATV, the GTO’s driver swerved, lost control and slammed his vehicle into a tree. He died in the accident, and a passenger in his vehicle was injured. The ATV’s driver escaped without injury. Officials said he was charged with operating an ATV on a highway, with no taillights and riding without a helmet.

As the use of golf carts and ATVs increases around Suffolk, it’s more important than ever for everyone to remember that they share the road with many different types of vehicles. Monday’s incident puts that consideration into perspective. Drivers in Suffolk should be ever alert, not just for school buses and motorcycles, but for bicycles, scooters, ATVs, golf carts and just about every other conveyance that could be imagined, even horses pulling carriages. It’s not hard to find someone in Suffolk riding around in each of those types of vehicles.

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Perhaps even more important, however, is the responsibility that folks must take for their own safety when they get on the road, whether in a 2,000-pound automobile or inside a shiny new electric golf cart. Especially if you’re in one of those alternative vehicles, remember that you share the road with some mighty big machines moving at high rates of speed and capable of doing horrific damage to you and others.

Sometimes, pedestrians, bicyclists and golf cart owners become complacent about their safety, as laws have been written to shield and protect them while they share Virginia’s public highways with trucks and cars. There is, in fact, a responsibility that motorists have to look out for slower, smaller vehicles. But the folks in those slower, smaller vehicles also must take care to do everything they can to protect themselves if they want to share the commonwealth’s highways safely.

That starts with following the traffic laws that apply to them. And it includes a healthy dose of keeping your eyes open to the dangers around you and being on alert to the things that could go wrong at any given moment.