- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

Sept. 2

Sun News, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on texting:

Nearly all teenagers say texting while driving is dangerous yet 43 percent of the teen drivers admit to doing it. Why? Perhaps because 75 percent of the teens say their friends text while driving and 77 percent have seen their parents texting.

The data is from a national survey by AT&T; Wireless which started the “It Can Wait” campaign in 2009 and now is a sponsor with the S.C. Press Association of a writing and video contest for high school students on the dangers of texting while driving.

The Sun News contest begins Monday and closes Oct. 13. In an essay, editorial or opinion column, high school writers are to answer the question: “Why is it important to take the It Can Wait pledge to never text and drive?” Writers should highlight the dangers of texting while driving and must include this call to action: “Take the pledge to never text and drive at ItCanWait.com”

Entries must be typed and be between 300 and 500 words. Entries may be emailed to [email protected] with the words It can wait in the subject line.

Video entrants must create a video that answers the “Why is it important to take the pledge” question by highlighting the dangers of texting while driving. The video also must include the call to action for drivers to take the pledge at ItCanWait.com.

The video and essay contest is open to all S.C. high school students, including those being home schooled. Essays must be the work of one student; video entries can be the work of an individual student or a team of students.

It should go without saying, but the rules say it anyway: Videos must not be filmed from within a moving vehicle.

AT&T; is underwriting a $500 prize for the statewide winner. Writing entries must be received by The Sun News and all video entries must be submitted to the SCPA by Oct. 13. The Sun News winner will be announced on Oct. 23 and sent to the SCPA to compete in the state contest. Members of The Sun News Editorial Board will judge the entries. Statewide winners in editorial and video will be announced on Nov. 7.

It took six years, but South Carolina now has a ban on texting while driving. State Sen. Greg Hembree of Little River says the S.C. law, which became effective when Gov. Nikki Haley signed it, pre-empts all local ordinances, which had created a patchwork of bans and enforcement confusion. One fault of the law is that the penalty is only $25. Hembree feels that will be revisited after the law has been in place for a time and he points out that many drivers will follow the law.

Pamela P. Lackey, state president of AT&T;, cites progress in convincing motorists to refrain from texting while driving, including more than four million pledges on ItCanWait.com. Still, “texting drivers cause more than 100,000 automobile crashes resulting in death or life-changing injuries,” she says in a letter to S.C. newspaper editors.

“It Can Wait” originated in a group discussion centered on the idea that “I know it’s dangerous but I can handle it.” Clifton Metcalf, director of public affairs for AT&T; in both Carolinas, recalls that the discussion leader asked everyone to look at his or her most recent text message. “Was your last message worth your life - or can it wait?” The room was hushed.

Of course, texting while driving is not just a teenager issue.

“This writing contest is exciting because it will engage young people across the state in urging their peers, and, yes, their parents to refrain from texting and driving,” Lackey says.

Every parent knows teen peers have more impact on teens than their parents. Metcalf points out that 90 percent of teens surveyed say if a teen friend in the car says, “Hey, don’t do that,” they will stop texting.




Sept. 2

The Herald, Rock Hill, South Carolina, on high school game passes:

Free passes to Friday night high school football games, such as those issued in Rock Hill to fans 65 and older, are a great way to sustain interest in local sports. But the Rock Hill school district needs a consistent policy regarding when those passes are honored.

Some fans had to scramble to find money for tickets after their passes didn’t get them a seat at the Aug. 23 Northwestern High game against Byrnes. Fans with passes including “Club 65” passes for seniors and “VIP” passes, which are given to a select few such as teachers of the year, were told they would have to buy a ticket.

The reason given earlier on the district’s website and Facebook page was that the game was being televised on ESPN, and district-issued passes wouldn’t be honored “due to the district contract with ESPN.” People also were told they couldn’t use their passes because the game was sponsored by ESPN.

But the contract with ESPN says nothing about ticket policies. And, while the network was broadcasting the game, it wasn’t technically sponsoring it.

Those running the gate at District 3 Stadium, realizing this would be a high-profile game, wanted to ensure the stadium was not overcrowded. But there must be a better way than turning away pass-holders.

The district deserves credit for issuing passes. The passes make games more affordable for seniors and, at the same time, help broaden the fan base to include people who might otherwise not attend games.

But lack of a consistent policy regarding passes just sows confusion. The district needs to spell out well in advance when the passes won’t be honored.

We can understand that the district might want to limit the use of free passes when a game is likely to sell out. But that happens only rarely.

We think an option mentioned by Rock Hill schools Superintendent Kelly Pew might cover most contingencies. The district could ask pass holders to pick up their game tickets a few days in advance so the school can gauge how many people to anticipate.

The topic has been added to the agenda for the school board’s September work session. We’re confident board members can come up with a policy that will be fair but still will encourage older fans and other pass-holders to come to games.




Sept. 3

The Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina, on offshore drilling:

Offshore drilling is being sold as the prospect of thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars of revenue for South Carolina.

And presumably that’s why many of the state’s political leaders and residents favor exploration for offshore oil and gas resources off the state’s coast.

But the outlook isn’t necessarily so rosy for the coastal region. The state should pay heed to the Lowcountry perspective of leaders like Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling, who pointed out some of the flaws in the coastal drilling plan in comments to the Greenville News.

“I think it is a huge threat without a whole lot of justification,” Mayor Keyserling said. “What is the impact to tourism of oil rigs? What is the impact on tourism of an accident?”

And, we’d add, what is the potential impact on the coastal environment?

Mayor Keyserling is just one of a number of elected Lowcountry officials, including Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and 1st District Rep. Mark Sanford, who have expressed opposition to the drilling scheme being advanced by federal regulators.

Oil industry estimates of jobs and investment are understandably generating some support among South Carolinians - particularly those who don’t live along the coast. The American Petroleum Institute, for example, estimates that the oil industry in South Carolina could create 11,000 jobs and generate as much as $3.7 billion in state revenue over a 20-year period.

Even if there are significant oil and gas reserves beneath the South Carolina coast, drilling off-shore directly threatens a proven industry - tourism - that already generates billions of dollars for the state and employs about one out of every ten residents, according to the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

Even under the strictest possible safety standards, serious risks remain both from large-scale spills like the Gulf Horizon disaster and from the natural leaks that occur on a daily basis. And pipelines, tankers and other oil infrastructure could easily become eyesores and threaten fragile coastal ecosystems.

Those risks outweigh the projected benefits for South Carolina and its residents.

Energy independence is important, and strides have been made by a combination of decreased consumption and increased domestic production to reduce the nation’s reliance on foreign imports. Natural gas production, in particular, has sharply risen.

But there are better ways to boost domestic energy production than drilling off the Atlantic Coast. The Obama administration could ease up its opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, for starters.

South Carolina needs to attract new jobs and revenue, but it would be shortsighted to risk the tourism industry with its demonstrated ability to employ tens of thousands and generate billions of dollars for one with no track record in South Carolina and a spotty record elsewhere.

Lowcountry leaders are right to oppose off-shore drilling, despite the blandishments of the industry and its advocates, including elected officials in Columbia and Washington, D.C.

The state depends on the tourism industry, and coastal tourism leads the way. It would be foolhardy to risk our most valuable resources in the process of seeking out an incompatible and troublesome industry.



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