Tragic holiday for Nebraska drivers

Thursday, July 6, 2006

It was a busy long holiday weekend for law enforcement personnel, and not the kind any of us would have preferred.

A McCook woman was killed, her husband seriously injured and two others hospitalized in a tragic accident south of McCook on the Fourth of July.

The day before, far to the north, a South Dakota woman was killed in a rollover accident, and another Nebraska man and woman were killed in separate crashes over the holiday weekend.

Especially tragic was the fact that alcohol may have been involved in at least one of the fatalities.

Law enforcement did its best to prevent the carnage. Few officers had much time with their families this weekend, and the Nebraska State Patrol tallied 248 motorist assists, 49 arrests for driving under the influence, investigated seven alcohol-related crashes, issued 1,220 speeding citations, 166 seat belt citations and warnings and 30 child restraint citations and warnings.

Some of the statistics were racked up during "Zero Tolerance Day" on Friday, when troopers from coast to coast placed special emphasis on violations tagged "Primary Collision Factors" such as speeding, following too closely, unsafe lane changes and DUI.

And, thanks to a $16,000 grant, the State Patrol ran a "Ten Minutes to a Trooper" selective enforcement around Omaha, meaning motorists were likely to see an officer about every 10 minutes while traveling on the busiest parts of Interstate 80.

So what's the answer?

We've lowered the acceptable blood alcohol content for drivers, we've imposed tougher seat belt and child restraint laws, and anyone whose lead foot has landed them in court would tell you that the fines and court costs should be a sufficiently painful reminder that speeding isn't worth it.

Today's cars are the safest in history, with thousands of dollars of electronic handling controls, passive and active passenger restraints galore.

No, tougher laws are not necessary, and officers already have their hands full enforcing the ones on the books.

Only through personal self-control and responsible operation of our motor vehicles can highway travel become the safe activity it should be.

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