The goodwill and cheer of Christmas is now a memory, but our roads are just as congested as we reach New Year’s, another time of celebrating, remembrance and looking ahead.
Not only will our Cleveland streets and Bradley County roads be especially congested tonight, the temptation by some to get behind a steering wheel following New Year’s Eve celebratory gatherings where alcohol has been consumed will add to the menace.
Those whose senses have been impaired by social drinking or any form of substance abuse, legal or illicit — whether at family occasions, New Year’s Eve parties or innocent dinners at area restaurants — are urged to think twice before getting behind the steering wheel of their vehicles.
Driver safety is of utmost concern among law enforcement professionals who are monitoring our roadways this holiday season, but a compounding factor is this: Intoxicated drivers are not just a danger to themselves. In addition, they place in peril the lives of others — passengers in their own vehicles and fellow motorists with whom they share the road.
Heartbreaking is the most painful description when hearing stories by family members who have lost loved ones, through no fault of their own, to a drunk driver. It has happened in Bradley County over and over, and sadly it will occur again.
Those who best know the message of such tragedy are those who have lost parents, siblings, sons, daughters and friends to intoxicated driving.
Families in Cleveland and Bradley County still mourn the loss of loved ones from this year alone; to date, 19 lives have been taken by roadway crashes in 2012. A few hours remain before the year’s official close. In 2011, 11 area residents lost their lives. In 2010, the number was 17.
Some might tire of hearing these reminders over and over during the year-ending holidays, but families still recovering from the loss of those who were so dear see the preciousness of life from a new perspective. They have felt the pain. They still live the sorrow. They cling to the memories of those lost.
Through its “Lifesaver” program launched in late 2011, the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office has worked hard to educate the motoring public about speed — another cause of loss of life, especially on open roads like interstates and rural routes. As dangerous as excessive speed is to any motorist, alcohol consumption compounds the threat.
No one likes being pulled over by law enforcement professionals and ticketed for illegal acts. But as long as drivers abuse roadway privileges, and while some continue to ignore requests not to speed, operate vehicles recklessly or drink and drive, the safety endeavors by BCSO, Cleveland Police Department, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Charleston Police Department and others are not only necessary but justified.
Until this year, we were seeing improvement in the number of local fatalities. This year’s increase can be attributed to multiple causes — alcohol, speed and reckless mindsets are three. But in a nutshell, it also can be blamed on “distractions” — use of cellphones whether for talking, dialing or texting, operating the radio, changing CDs, eating or drinking beverages, and others.
Law enforcement agencies working to keep our roads safe are to be commended for their efforts. But they need the help of anyone in this community who gets behind the steering wheel of a moving vehicle.
We urge motorists to be mindful of safety — of their own, but most importantly of others.
We don’t ask that holiday revelers abstain from ringing in the new year.
We ask only that wise decisions be made in its aftermath.