- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

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Sept. 16

The Times and Democrat on speeding:

With fewer people on the roads during the coronavirus pandemic, it seems nearly all states are reporting that those on the roads are speeding more than ever. The result is making deadly highways even deadlier.



Speeding is dangerous and claims the lives of nearly 10,000 Americans every year. It is responsible for more than a quarter of all traffic fatalities in the U.S.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration considers a crash to be speeding-related if one of the drivers is cited for a speeding-related offense or if an officer determines that driving too fast for conditions, racing or exceeding the speed limit was a contributing factor in the crash.

While NHTSA data shows both the share of traffic fatalities related to speeding and the speeding-related fatality rate have been declining in recent years, these rates vary at the state level. Nationwide, the average annual speeding-related fatality rate for the five year period from 2014-18 was 2.97 per 100,000 people. However, at the state level, there is a statistically significant relationship between speeding-related fatalities per capita and the maximum posted speed limit in the state. States with higher posted speed limits often experience more speed-related fatalities.

In light of the increase in speeding during COVID-19, researchers at CoPilot, a car shopping app that helps guide users through the buying process, examined which states and counties historically suffer from the most speeding-related deaths. The analysts used data from the NHTSA, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to rank which states have the most speeding-related fatalities as a share of all vehicle fatalities. It is worth noting that the data used in the analysis was collected from 2014-18 and therefore does not reflect recent driving behavior in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The analysis found that in South Carolina, 39.8% of total traffic deaths involve speeding. Out of all states, South Carolina has the eighth-highest percentage of traffic deaths that involve speeding in the U.S. Here is a summary of the data for South Carolina:

• Traffic fatalities that involve speeding: 39.8% of total

• Speeding-related traffic fatality rate per 100k: 7.59

• Total traffic fatalities that involve speeding (past 5 years): 1,930

• Total traffic fatalities (past 5 years): 4,848

• Maximum posted speed limit: 70 mph

• Worst county for speeding: Spartanburg

For reference, here are the statistics for the entire United States:

• Traffic fatalities that involve speeding: 27.0% of total

• Speeding-related traffic fatality rate per 100k: 2.97

• Total traffic fatalities that involve speeding (past 5 years): 48,622

• Total traffic fatalities (past 5 years): 180,067

• Maximum posted speed limit: 85 mph (Texas)

• Worst county for speeding: Washington County, RI

While fewer cars on the road might lull drivers into a false sense of security, too many people continue die. Before the pandemic and now, South Carolina was one of the most dangerous places to drive. How great a “new normal” would be if that could change. Slow down!

For more information, a detailed methodology and complete results for all states and counties, you can find the original CoPilot report at https://www.copilotsearch.com/posts/states-and-counties-with-worst-speeding-problem/

Online: https://thetandd.com/

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Sept. 14

The Post and Courier on reopening schools:

This was the deal we thought we were signing up for: Shut down the economy for a month, maybe six weeks, send everybody home, let the coronavirus run its course, and then we’re back to normal.

Only that didn’t happen. Not in states such as South Carolina that never really shut down. Not in states that did. Or in many countries that shut down. They had a lower incidence of COVID-19 infections than South Carolina, but when they opened back up, the infections came right back.

This is why even states that locked down are reopening restaurants, retail, personal services and even events venues, although with stricter and more uniform mask and social distancing requirements than in South Carolina. But there’s a huge exception to reopening, an area where many people in positions of authority insist that infections first have to get down to levels that might not be realistic until we have a vaccine: the schools.

In South Carolina, only 19 of 81 school districts are offering parents the option of sending their children back into the classroom five days a week. Eighteen, including most of the Corridor of Shame schools, aren’t offering any in-class instruction, although S.C. Education Superintendent Molly Spearman has insisted that they move to at least a hybrid model this month.

This simply is not sustainable. And it’s why, with the Legislature returning to work this week to spend the remaining $668 million in federal CARES Act funding, Gov. Henry McMaster is pushing lawmakers to provide $50 million to cover the added expenses for schools that allow kids back in the classroom five days a week.

This spring demonstrated that for most students, virtual education is simply no substitute for in-person education. And that having children in the classroom is important to help them develop socialization skills and to keep them safe. And that many parents, who have to go to work in order to provide food and shelter for their children, don’t have the luxury of staying home with their children five, four or even three days a week while they wait for schools to decide they can accommodate all the children whose parents want them physically present in the classroom.

South Carolina’s economy,” Mr. McMaster said Thursday, “is returning to normal because people have returned to their workplaces following precautions designed to keep them healthy and working. I believe that … by following official COVID-19 procedures and protocols, schools, too, can be reopened safely and sensibly the same way businesses, manufacturers, restaurants, merchants and state government have done.”

We understand that getting kids back into the classroom is easier in some schools than others. The Charleston County School District, for instance, can accommodate all of the children whose parents want them back in class in some schools; in other schools, the demand is so high and the amount of classroom space so low that many students had to start the year with remote learning while they wait for infection rates to drop enough for the district to allow more students in the classrooms. Which might happen at some point. Or not.

But some districts that could accommodate face-to-face instruction have chosen not to. And even the most space-strapped schools could accommodate more students if they were more creative about what constitutes a “classroom.” The private University School of the Lowcountry, for example, struggled for more than two months to work through the ridiculous bureaucratic hoops to get permission to hold some classes under tents on its Mount Pleasant campus.

We believe that some officials would come up with more creative ways to accommodate more students if they didn’t have to worry about how to pay for furniture and dividers to turn gyms, auditoriums and cafeterias into classrooms or desk partitions to allow more students in each classroom or tents to move them outside or improved ventilation systems or … whatever.

Mr. McMaster’s plan isn’t perfect; districts such as Charleston County probably should be eligible for some extra funding based on how many more students they bring back to school five days per week, rather than requiring that they provide five-day classes for all students who want them, for instance.

But unless the Legislature is willing to require all schools to provide full in-person education to any students who want it, using money as an incentive is a good idea.

And given how important it is to get kids back into the classroom - for parents, for our state’s economy and for the children themselves - we can’t think of any use of the remaining federal COVID funding that should take priority over that effort.

Online: https://www.postandcourier.com/

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Sept. 9

The State newspaper on allowing citizens to view body cam videos from law enforcement:

Too many people - including some politicians and law enforcement officials - are putting too much effort into blocking public access to police body camera videos.

But there’s a simple reality that the shortsighted opponents of greater access never seem to grasp.

Yes, body camera videos can play a major role in identifying and weeding out police officers who fall well short of meeting the high levels of trust and faith that society has placed in them.

But body camera videos can also play a powerful role in assuring society that the overwhelming majority of police officers are indeed living up to the high standards and responsibilities demanded of them.

They can affirm the fact that - shift after shift, day after day - most police officers across this state and country are doing the right thing.

That, more than any other reason, is why the people who most fear the idea of making body cam videos public should actually be the ones supporting it with enthusiasm.

The truth is that it’s not transparency that hinders police work - it’s the resistance to acting in a transparent way that does so.

EXEMPTION IS A DISSERVICE

It’s time for South Carolina’s lawmakers to champion the cause of greater openness by passing legislation that would make body camera footage public.

It would close a ridiculously gaping loophole in current state law that allows law enforcement agencies to refuse to make body camera footage available for public disclosure through the Freedom of Information Act.

The exemption for body camera footage is a disservice to the citizens of South Carolina - and it shows contempt for the public’s right to know how it is being represented by those sworn to serve it.

That’s why the South Carolina Press Association has spearheaded an effort for state lawmakers to drop the exemption on body camera footage - and it’s why South Carolina’s legislators should take seriously the need to change the current law.

In fact, it should be high on the to-do list of the new committee formed by the S.C. House to work on a number of issues related to law enforcement reform.

There should be little debate among the committee members that providing public access to body camera videos will benefit those who serve in law enforcement as much as it will the citizens they serve.

TRANSPARENCY, NOT SECRECY

Hiding body camera footage from public view and scrutiny - and let’s be clear, “hiding” is the proper word to use - will never help to make police work easier.

And it will never help to improve the public’s ability to appreciate just how well police work is being done most of the time.

It’s time for South Carolina’s lawmakers to rectify that.

It’s time for them to choose transparency over secrecy.

They must create and pass legislation to remove the exemption for police body camera videos.

Online: https://www.thestate.com/

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