A morning rush-hour crash in a work zone on Route 222 south in East Cocalico Township on June 24 killed one person and sent five others to the hospital. The work zone — in which traffic is reduced to a single lane — starts about 2 miles south of the Pennsylvania Turnpike interchange, allowing for bridge work by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The crash occurred when a tractor-trailer driver failed to slow down at the beginning of the single lane and rear-ended a car in front of him, state police told LNP. The car’s driver, 57-year-old Evelyn R. Nazario, of Reading, died after being taken to Lancaster General Hospital.
In this Fourth of July holiday week, when many individuals and families will be traveling, this is a somber reminder to drive safely at all times.
Buckle up. Slow down. Pay attention. Arrive alive. These oft-repeated catchphrases exist for good reasons: our safety. And the safety of our loved ones. And the safety of those with whom we share the roads.
We were heartbroken by the news of the fatal crash on Route 222 last week and extend our sympathies to all those affected. The investigation is still ongoing, so we’re not going to comment specifically on the crash. But, in general, these are some thoughts we hope everyone can keep in mind when hitting the road this summer.
— Slow down. Too many people drive fast and aggressively, making our roads, many of which have maintenance issues, even more dangerous. There can be myriad factors behind vehicle accidents, but speed is one of the big factors we can control. According to a 2017 World Health Organization report, 40% to 50% of all vehicles travel above the posted speed limit, “and whether or not a car is speeding can be the difference between life and death.”
Many of us need to change our mindset when getting behind the wheel. Kevin Mallin, of Manor Township, described in a letter to the editor last year the “anarchy” he sees on the roads: “I find it disturbing that very few people have any regard for the rule of law while driving. ... Apparently, some people are special, and the driving laws don’t apply to them.” We have the power to change that. Let’s all be the positive examples that begin to turn the tide on that highway “anarchy.”
— Pay attention. Every generation has its driving distractions: plugging in an eight-track tape, changing the radio station, unfolding a map, etc. But our generation’s distractions seem to be particularly unsafe. Smartphones — with their notifications, text messages, music, podcasts, etc. — can steal a driver’s attention in many ways. Distracted driving citations are surging locally and statewide.
We should heed the message promoted by Manheim Township High School students Nicole Csoky and Alex Emerich, who won the Lancaster County contest for a statewide billboard design competition earlier this year. “The #ItCanWait design ... reminds drivers that nothing is more important than keeping one’s eyes on the road,” LNP reported in its Schools section in May. The students’ billboard features the icons of Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat — three of the applications that can be most tempting to drivers of all ages.
Rules for truckers
While it is the responsibility of drivers of all types of vehicles to keep the roads safe, tractor-trailer drivers have an even greater responsibility, given how deadly their vehicles can be. Accordingly, they are subject to federal regulations on the number of consecutive hours they can drive.
That’s why we find it disturbing that the U.S. Department of Transportation is moving to relax those regulations, according to a story by The Associated Press that appeared Monday on LancasterOnline.
“Interest groups that represent motor carriers and truck drivers have lobbied for revisions they say would make the rigid ‘hours of service’ rules more flexible,” the AP reported. “But highway safety advocates are warning the contemplated changes would dangerously weaken the regulations, resulting in truckers putting in even longer days at a time when they say driver fatigue is such a serious problem.”
Indeed, this is already a serious problem that must not be exacerbated by federal deregulation.
We hope Congress can step in and do what’s right for the safety of Americans traveling our highways.
Continuing the convoy
On a more positive note relating to tractor-trailers, the Make-A-Wish Foundation recently put out a call for organizations willing to host next year’s Mother’s Day convoy “after Burle Business Park, host for most of the convoy’s 30-year history, said it would no longer be able to accommodate the growing event,” LNP’s Colin Evans reported Saturday.
And, already, a local business has stepped up as a candidate.
Manheim Auto Auction, a 500-acre property off Route 72, reached out to Make-A-Wish after an inquiry from an LNP reporter prompted it to consider hosting the event, Evans reported. Make-A-Wish will make a site visit next week to see if the business has sufficient capacity to host 450 to 600 tractor-trailers.
We applaud Manheim Auto Auction for signaling its willingness to host the Mother’s Day convoy. We hope this winds up being a great solution for an iconic local event.
As Evans notes: “The annual tradition in Lancaster County began after a young boy asked to ride in a trailer truck and talk to his sister over CB radio in 1990.” Truck drivers came together to help grant the wish and have returned each year in large numbers. In 2016, the event made the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest truck convoy.