EDITORIAL: Make safety a habit behind the wheel

Jul. 09, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

Preliminary numbers show that seven people died on North Carolina highways during the four-day July Fourth holiday period, the state Highway Patrol is reporting.

That doesn't seem like a lot, especially considering the size of North Carolina and considering that 14 people died the previous year. That's a 50 percent reduction, which is good news. Perhaps more people are employing good driving habits and necessary precautions on the highways, especially in heavy holiday traffic.

Nonetheless, one death is one too many. Seven is unacceptable.

Caution behind the wheel can mean the difference between life and death any time we drive, not only during peak travel periods. Reinforcing this fact, the N.C. Department of Transportation lists the following safety tips on its website:

* Stay alert

* Wear a seatbelt

* Don't drink and drive

* Use approved child restraints

* Be patient and obey the posted speed limit

* Don't tailgate

* Watch out for road debris

* Avoid in-car distractions

* Leave early to get a head start on your drive, and travel at non-peak times

* Use alternate routes, when possible, to avoid traffic congestion

* Call 511, the department's free travel information line, or visit NCDOT’s Traveler Information Management System (TIMS) for real-time travel information.

All sound advice — especially keeping our attention on the road. Technological advancements mean we can do more and more on the go, and more gadgets and devices are vying for our attention.

We've all seen drivers talking on a cell phone, texting or succumbing to some other distraction at the expense of operating their vehicles. All to often, that scenario ends in tragedy.

Any time we are in transit, and we choose to focus on anything besides getting from one location to another safely, we are putting ourselves and others at risk.

So keep your eyes on the road; everything else can wait.