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Posted 9/14/11 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

For the past two years, I have taken the liberty of using this column as a means of getting on my soap box and lecturing to people about the importance of driving carefully on our highways in western North Dakota.
The message has always been the same every time that I’ve felt compelled to tell people how to drive. It has been to slow down, use their seat belts, drive defensively, don’t drink and drive, don’t text and drive, and always expect the unexpected when meeting oncoming traffic.
Why the ongoing safe driving message? Because, as we all know, the roads out here in western North Dakota are dangerous. The oilfield-related truck traffic is continuing to increase and our roads are showing the toll that all of the heavy traffic has caused. They are full of depressed wheel tracks, soft spots and potholes. Even roads that were repaired a year ago are already worn out in many areas.
Couple the increased traffic with poor driving surfaces along with a lot of new drivers to this part of the state, some other non-attentive drivers and everyone’s rush to get somewhere as quickly as possible and what do you get? You get the perfect combination for some very deadly motor vehicle accidents.
And you don’t have to just listen to the editor of a weekly newspaper to tell you these things. You can talk to any law enforcement officer or to any fireman or ambulance worker who has to answer the almost daily call to respond to a motor vehicle collision somewhere in McKenzie County. Or you can talk to your friends and neighbors who will recount their close call with an accident.
Sometimes the collisions are between two passenger vehicles and sometimes they are between two semi trucks. But sometimes the call to respond is to an accident that involves a passenger vehicle and a semi truck. While all accidents between motor vehicles have the potential of a fatality occurring, the likelihood of someone being seriously injured or killed increases exponentially when it involves a typical passenger vehicle or pickup and a semi truck.
So excuse me as I climb back onto my soap box this week to again ask all motorists to drive carefully out there.
The reason? A motor vehicle accident this past Sunday morning involved a pickup and a semi truck that left four people dead. All four of the people that died, either at the scene or later as a result of the accident, were passengers in a pickup that was struck head-on by a semi truck that had crossed the center line.
While there is no right age for a person to die in a motor vehicle accident, the loss of lives in this particular accident is extremely painful. The two adults were 21 and 26, while the two children were five and two years old.
Four lives were lost on a bright, sunny Sunday morning in a tragic motor vehicle accident that will forever change the lives of their families, the people who live in their community, and all of the people that knew them. Four young individuals lost their lives before they really had a chance to live them. As for the driver of the semi, his life has changed forever as well. For the rest of his life, he will have to deal with the consequences of the accident.
Motor vehicle accidents can and do happen. That is life and that is why they are called accidents.
But the majority of motor vehicle accidents could be avoided if only every driver would just follow some very basic safe driving guidelines such as slow down, use seat belts, drive defensively, don’t drink and drive, don’t text and drive, and always expect the unexpected when meeting oncoming traffic.
It’s a message that bears repeating.