Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
Vaccine eligibility being expanded to anyone 16 and older
Today is a special day in South Carolina. And this is no day before April Fool’s Day joke.
Gov. Henry McMaster has opened the opportunity for anyone 16 and older to sign up for the COVID-19 vaccination, starting today.
That just about anyone who wants to get that first dose can now sign up and get in line comes as spring has arrived and as the state begins to freshen up to open back up.
Yes, it’s a little bit dicey, we know, but towns, cities and counties are gearing back up in the hopes that the declining number of cases and deaths, coupled with the availability of and increase in vaccinations, are a signal that we are on the verge of returning to some semblance of normalcy.
Now, that’s a key word. Some. We are not out of the woods yet, as the expression goes, and there is reason for concern about the possibility variants will crash the party. There’s reason for concern, too, that spring break activities might lead to a resurgence of cases.
So here again we urge people to sign up. Get dose one, get dose two. Let’s do battle with COVID-19 and win.
The Times and Democrat
Fatal wrong-way driving crashes
It happened again in March, only this time an all-too-common occurrence made national headlines.
Tampa, Florida, officer Jesse Madsen was heading north on Interstate 275 in his marked patrol vehicle. Joshua Daniel Montague, 25, new in town, got onto the interstate and headed in the wrong direction. They crashed near E Hillsborough Avenue. Both men died on impact.
Reports have it that Montague was likely intoxicated at the time of the crash, driving his rented sedan at speeds of more than 100 mph. Madsen, it appears, was determined to stop him before he caused major carnage.
Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan corroborated an eyewitness’ account that Madsen appeared to intentionally veer into the path of the oncoming car to stop the wrong-way driver.
Dugan called him “a true American hero.”
The case also sparked concern locally, with self-professed “UFO Man” Jody Pendarvis of Bowman writing: “I have fought for years all the way to Washington to get a road sign changed so no one would have to get on the wrong highway.
“To get to the interstate, there is a sign that points directly to where you should go, but a piece back up the road is also the exact same sign. So, if it is foggy or heavy snow or rain, you want to take the first sign, which is real close to the exit from the interstate. So BAMB!
“At Homestead Road and I-26 are such signs; and at Charleston Highway and I-95 are others. The bad sign should have a direction to go forward more and then turn to the proper entrance.”
Pendarvis has written to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and others pointing out the problem and states: “I was hoping that no one else would get killed, but I must speech out when a highway patrolman deliberately gives his own life to save others.”
This a bigger problem than you may think.
While the report focuses on North Carolina without South Carolina statistics being provided, the latest data analysis from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that fatal wrong-way driving crashes are a persistent and devastating threat that has grown significantly worse in the Tar Heel State.
The analysis found the average number of deaths from wrong-way crashes on divided highways in the state from 2015 to 2018 was 75% higher than the previous five years. That more than doubles the nationwide increase of 32%. Researchers found the odds of being a wrong-way driver increased with alcohol impairment, older age and driving without a passenger.
“Wrong-way crashes on divided highways are often fatal as they are typically head-on collisions,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “And unfortunately, as the data shows, fatalities from these crashes are on the rise.”
According to NCDOT, there were 164 deaths from 2000 to 2017 due to wrong-way crashes – and alcohol and/or drugs were involved in nearly half of all of these crashes. Of the 129 wrong-way crashes from 2000 to 2013, 68 of them involved alcohol.
“If you notice a motorist driving the wrong way, be vigilant and move to the right shoulder – be sure to avoid slamming on brakes or abruptly swerving,” said Tiffany Wright, public affairs director, AAA-The Auto Club Group in the Carolinas. “Once out of harm’s way, call 911 to report the situation.”
Drivers are advised always to use common sense – and drive sober and not while you are tired. Beyond driver responsibility, with wrong-way crashes having grown so much in North Carolina and over 30% nationwide, it is time to look at what may be other factors, including highway signs.
The Post and Courier
USC deciding whether to retain men’s basketball coach Frank Martin
The S.C. Legislature has a tendency to meddle – in executive decisions that, under the state constitution, are supposed to be the province of the governor; in local matters that, under the constitution, are supposed to be the province of city and county governments; in college matters that are legally within its purview but that affect colleges whose budgets are funded almost entirely without state funds.
But there’s nothing wrong – and we’d suggest a lot right – with informing the University of South Carolina that it needs to make a choice: It can keep asking the Legislature to spend $35 million on its new medical school – or helping it to pay for deferred maintenance, or whatever pet project it wants funded on a given day – or it can keep squandering money paying overpaid coaches to stop coaching. It can’t expect to do both.
The bad news is that this overdue message was delivered not by the full Legislature but by a single state senator, Darrell Jackson, who was quizzing USC President Bob Caslen during a Thursday budget hearing before a Senate Finance subcommittee.
The good news – assuming it holds – is that Mr. Caslen seems to have taken the message seriously. Sources tell The Post and Courier’s David Cloninger and Andy Shain that USC officials decided after that Statehouse encounter to retain basketball coach Frank Martin for a 10th season despite a losing record this year, essentially reversing course on what until then seemed like a certain firing.
That’s good news not because we want USC to lose basketball games, or because we’re huge fans of Mr. Martin – we don’t have strong feelings one way or another about USC’s third-winningest basketball coach, although we do think it would be declasse to fire someone whose losing season stemmed at least in part to three COVID-19 team pauses and his own two bouts with the disease.
It’s good news because our Legislature has no business giving discretionary funding to a school that is so much more concerned about athletics than academics that it would seriously consider paying a coach $6.5 million to not coach. While also spending a ridiculous amount of money to search for a new coach, who will be paid too many millions of dollars to actually coach – at least until the school decides to buy out that contract, too.
It’s good news because the Legislature doesn’t need to give discretionary funding to a school that would do this just four months after it agreed to pay former football coach Will Muschamp what turned out to be $12.9 million to not coach. Which the school had no business doing.
It’s good news, too, because perhaps this means USC will either let Mr. Martin continue working on a two-year contract rather than extending it or else renegotiate it – his current contract promises 100% of the money he would make if he stayed, unless he’s fired for some “cause” other than a losing season – to eliminate the buyout clause or to specify that “cause” includes a losing season.
College officials defend buying out coaches’ contracts by saying they’re using “private money” or “athletic department money.” But money is fungible, and under S.C. law, money collected to support the university is public money, even if it comes from private donations. And “athletic department money” is university money, because the athletic department wouldn’t exist without the university, and so by all rights any extra money it has should go to academics.
It would be great for all S.C. colleges to have winning athletic teams, but contrary to what Mr. Caslen suggested to the Senate Finance subcommittee on Thursday, winning teams are not essential to the financial success of a college or university. They’re certainly not essential to the university’s actual mission, which is educating our state’s children.