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AAA Carolinas year-end compliments, critiques for traffic safety efforts

AAA Carolinas highlights year-end accolades and admonishments for traffic safety efforts and government officials in North and South Carolina.

This week AAA published its annual evaluation of transportation or traffic-related incidents both positive and negative in Go Magazine mailing to 1.8 million members in the two states.

The full list is also available at www.aaa.com/magazine. A green light is praise for a good decision or outcome; a red light indicates a poor or at the very least, questionable decision.

North Carolina

Red Light to Johnston County where a former assistant district attorney, a deputy clerk and four private attorneys, were indicted in March for obstruction of justice. Investigators say they tampered with court documents to secure illegal dismissals for drunken drivers.

Green light To the legislature for allowing school systems to install cameras on school buses to catch drivers who pass a stopped school bus. It is a class I misdemeanor to pass a stopped bus, the harshest moving violation in the state, which can result in jail time based upon prior convictions. It counts as five points on a drivers license.

Red light to NC Board of Transportation which agreed to spend $270 million in highway funding in Fayetteville, weeks before then DOT Secretary Lyndo Tippet left office in late 2008. Fayetteville is Tippets hometown and the reasons for the decision were sharply questioned by several other cities.

Green light to Governor Beverly Purdue, who used this and other examples, to reorganize the NC Board of Transportation so that clearly defined criteria, not political influence, would be used in the future to make highway funding decisions.

Red light to Atlantic Beach Mayor Retha Pierce who was indicted in October for hit-and-run/leaving the scene of an accident on U.S. 17. She was charged in a separate, earlier incident with driving under the influence.

Green Light to the legislature for passing the anti-texting law while driving for all motorists. The law went into effect Dec. 1 and the fine is $100.

Green Light to Gov. Perdue for her efforts to get funding for the Yadkin River Bridge on I-85, which has been among the states worst substandard bridge for years and carries 59,000 vehicles a day.

Red light to Lincoln County Sheriff Tim Daughtery who was indicted in October for obstruction of justice relating to his chief deputy allegedly helping a Denver doctor avoid a driving while intoxicated charge.

Green light to Wake County for using a 2007 Corvette Z06 confiscated from a cocaine dealer to catch speeders. Proceeds from the eventual sale of the car will be given to the countys school system.

Red light to the Highway patrol, who waited four days before issuing a speeding ticket to Rep. Cary Allred, who was clocked going 102 mph in a 65 mph on Interstate 40. Allred said he was on his way to a legislative session.

Green light to a pair of University of Arkansas-Little Rock and St. Louis Federal Reserve economists who showed when the economy is suffering, police write more speeding tickets in North Carolina. When times were good in 2000, tickets statewide totaled 645,000. In 2002, recovering from 9/11, the number jumped to 768,000. Police said the study was flawed.

Red light to the highway patrol for failing to keep an accurate record of former Governor Mike Easleys trips while providing executive security for him during his two-terms as governor. Governor Perdue reassigned five former members of the security detail in June.

Green light – the patrol now has a protocol for keeping detailed records of all travels by the states governor, a move endorsed by now Governor Purdue.

South Carolina

Red Light to the court systems of North and South Carolina which failed to sanction a 44-year-old Lake Wylie, South Carolina woman who had received 19 speeding tickets (15 in South Carolina, 4 in North Carolina) in 10 years and was racing another car in April when it crashed into a third car, killing a Winthrop College assistant professor, her daughter and a teenager.

Green light to NC DOT for erecting a temporary traffic signal on the N.C. Route 49, near where the above crash occurred, and paying for it after the developer of The Palisades, Crescent Resources and Rhein Medall Communities failed to honor a 2001 agreement to pay for the light when it was needed.

Red light to Solicitor Barney Giese, prosecutor for Richland and Kershaw counties who refused to take a breath test when he was arrested for Driving under the Influence in Charleston going the wrong way on a one-way street June 29. The charge was later dismissed for lack of evidence.

Green Light to the South Carolina Department of Transportation for putting up electronic message boards with real-time traffic information on interstate highways; reducing expenses $1.6 million from the previous year and working with the South Carolina Department of Public Safety on traffic safety campaigns.

Green Light to the Department of Public Safetys Buckle Up South Carolina seat belt campaign that helped boost the usage of seat belts to 81.5 percent, the highest in the states history. Still, the statistics show in more than 40 percent of the states traffic fatalities, no seat belt is worn.

Green Light to the Department of Transportation for installing cost-effective rumble strips on the shoulders and centerlines of as many highways as possible between 2004-2008, 54 percent of all highway traffic deaths involved run-off-the-road crashes.

Red Light to Governor Mark Sanford who apparently encouraged a State Law Enforcement Division agent driving him back to Columbia after an October speech in Easely, S.C. to speed. The governors vehicle was stopped for speeding but no ticket was issued at the time.

Green Light to Department of Public Safety Director Mark Keel, who upon learning no ticket was issued, ordered one written for the Governors driver.

Red Light to the state legislature for not enacting any laws affecting distracted driving behind the wheel. Other states have, at a minimum, recognized that the use of cell phones by teenagers while driving is a danger to the driver and other vehicles sharing the road.

Green Light to the state legislature which enacted tougher anti-drunk driving laws that became effective early in 2009, providing harsher penalties based on the amount of alcohol consumed, for refusing to take a breath-test and mandating counseling for convicted drunk drivers and first-time offenders.

Green Light to State Senator Larry Martin for efforts to legislate against the hazards of distracted driving; to Sen. Joel Lourie for efforts to improve teen driving programs and to Barry Barnette, Principal Deputy Solicitor for the 7th Judicial Circuit, for promoting tougher penalties for people driving illegally and causing a fatal traffic crash.