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OUR VIEW: The fire truck vs car intersection

We can share the road with each other - Watch Out for the Other Guy


We don’t know what the outcome of the MAIT investigation into the causes of a deadly car vs fire truck wreck in Clinton on Easter Morning will be; we may never know. If the results mean charges are brought that might be announced by the Highway Patrol, but the real work in that regard would be done by the Eighth Circuit Solicitor’s Office based in Greenwood. If a determination is made that there are no charges and the case is closed, the MAIT file could come under the SC Freedom of Information Act. If the case becomes criminal, likely it would not, because it would be evidence. 

There is a Ring doorbell video that shows right before and right after the wreck; this was first disclosed in a WYFF-TV segment. It shows cars stopped to make a right turn from Springdale Drive onto Hwy 72 (in front of the Armory) and a QRV going through the light as the cars yield. Could be - speculation alert - that the car drivers figured that was the only vehicle to respond to a call at the BP station on Hwy 72 and I-26, and they felt the coast was clear to make the turn. In any event, the first car at the light would make the turn, and the driver of the second car, looking out his/her driver’s side window, would see what you see above. Photo on the left is a wide angle view of this intersection from the location of second-car-back-from-the-light. Photo on the right is a telephoto shot from the same spot. We’ve all done it, making a right turn on red, look left, then right (to make sure there’s no one standing at the crosswalk), then a quick glance left, then turn. A fast-moving vehicle can be on us before we know it with that quick-left-glance. 

The fast-moving vehicle’s driver has just enough time to recognize, “that person’s going to turn out in front of me.” If the vehicle leaving the city is coming from North Adair Street (in front of Clinton Middle School) and then merging to Willard Road, the driver at the light never sees it -- trees and signs are in the way. If the fast-moving vehicle is coming up Willard Road, it is cresting a hill (in front of Rosemont Cemetery) and then - quick! - it is at this traffic light. Add the fact that cars today are air-tight, and stereoes can rival the speakers at a rock band concert, and even sirens are iffy.

This commentary is being written on Thursday, April 3, and the fatal wreck happened on Sunday, March 31 - yes, Easter Sunday - and the Highway Patrol had not yet sent out updated information. In fact, the Sunday night, after the Sunday morning wreck, audio was just 1 minute in length, and was a simple “under investigation” notification. They know more by now. Granted, law enforcement is not obligated to tell us anything; and it could be argued that the desire for more information is just us being nosey. Two people really know what happened - or might know, depending on their view of who hit who - and both have been in the hospital. We do not envy the jobs of law enforcement investigators -- or first responders - in these situations.

What we are saying is, We Need to Watch Out for Each Other. That’s not to say we are driving careless - watch out for the other guy, wasn’t that the highways protection message from a while back? Already, there has been a Greenville deputy seriously hurt in a motorcycle vs pickup wreck on Vern Cora Drive, near the Walmart Distribution Center, last Tuesday afternoon - we read on Thursday of a lights and sirens law enforcement fatality in Arizona also on Easter. In Clinton, we had many motorcyclists here for the spring Bub Lollis event at Whitten Center this past Sunday. We will have many again in Clinton on May 11 for the Hunter Sipes Memorial event at Whiteford’s. The nicer spring weather (outside of this past Friday and Saturday with lows in the mid-30s, and rain this week) will bring many more people out to be “riding around” - we all need to respect each others’ rights to use the highways.

Don’t “go ballistic” if somebody turns out in front of you (just presume everybody has a concealed weapon). Become extra vigilant when you see someone on a bicycle. Look twice for motorcycles. Recognize that there are animals out there, probably more than we are used to seeing because we are tearing down their habitat at an alarming rate. We shouldn’t even have to say it in 2024, but Don’t Drink and Drive. Take those keys away from your buddy who is impaired, you know him when you see him (or her, didn’t mean to be sexist).

Speeding - now this is the one that gets us every time. Know your road and be mindful that the faster you go, the more force works against you on those curves. Know that, in an agricultural state, there’s going to be farm equipment. Know that in a recreational state, there’s going to a four-wheelers and golf carts. If it’s a flat straight-away, stay awake; stop every so often to refresh; they don’t build those giant gas stations for nothing, you know. Counsel your young drivers or, better yet, ride with them. They will hate it - but they will learn.

Look, folks, we don’t want to sound preachy and we do not intend to throw shade on anyone. South Carolina has a ton of roads and some of them are going to have trees and bushes and sign-clutter blocking clear sight-lines. Cities and counties cannot be expected to get to all of this maintenance in a timely manner because, once it’s done in one place, it’s time to go do it again somewhere else that was just maintained. Not all our roads have rumble-strips, and we probably don’t even want them to, because we have hardly any bicycle lanes. Even when we repave a road, which is the perfect time to build it, we don’t want to invest in making it safer for bikers and walkers. That’s what sidewalks are for, even the ones that are cracked and “dippy”. We all become so comfortable in our vehicles that we - literally - leave the driving to someone/some thing else.

But we have to be mindful of the fact that there are people in vehicles for whom “getting there” is most definitely a matter of life and death. We saw these people in a beautiful procession last Tuesday morning (and, again, Friday, April 5). You would want them there, in tact, if it were your family in need. We have the utmost respect for them - and there is absolutely no reason in the world that we cannot share the road.