Daddy's driving advice is still good

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By W.B. Evans

One of the marvels of modern society is the ability to read the views of various folks who contribute to newspapers all over the world. In case you missed it, we just celebrated National Newspaper Week.

According to the latest research, almost 70 percent of your neighbors have read either a printed newspaper or a cyberspace version in the last seven days.

I think it’s because the old black and white and “read all over” newspaper is still the most trusted source of local news we have.

Where else can you go to find out about a Hog Jam, drug store robbery, fast swimmers and what’s happening at the local race track?   

These days, my world, as a whole, is smaller than it used to be. Not that I don’t keep abreast of what’s happening in faraway places like I did as a youngster, I sorta like to keep up with what folks are saying closer to home. 

A recent Rock Hill paper had a story that grabbed my attention. 

Finally, South Carolina is No. 1 in something. 

Did you know the Palmetto State leads the entire nation in the number of drivers who get killed on country roads?

You know, South Carolinians sure are an independent bunch. We won’t wear helmets when we race motorcycles down even the most familiar stretch of tar and gravel or buckle up when we tear down a dirt road out in the boondocks. 

We sure do mess up a lot of good pickups that way, not to mention providing job security for those in the grave-digging business.

Here’s something else you can learn in a newspaper: Only 1 percent of wrecks happen 50 miles or more away from home. 

An estimated 52 percent of all accidents we’re involved in occur within a five-mile radius of our front door. I guess you could say our familiar country roads are breeding grounds for accidents, which is why I don’t travel on them very much these days. 

Shucks, the interstates and all those humpback trailers headed to and from sunny Florida offer enough danger for me. 

I have a special dislike for yield signs on the interstates. Merging traffic that barrels onto a main highway at 60 miles an hour just ain’t safe. It’s like playing dodge ball with vehicles driven by daredevils.

Ever so often, you’ll turn to the newspaper opinion page to read where somebody is raising sand about the condition of our secondary roads.

Within a few days, an all-knowing bureaucrat will respond with a long essay telling us that it costs a bunch of money to pave roads. I hate to hurt his feelings, but we already knew that.

What has me scratching my head is why the county (or somebody else) spends money on paving when there’s a 2-foot wide mud hole in the middle of an oft-traveled dirt road that is on the verge of becoming a gully. 

I guess the folks we put in charge have bigger and better plans on the agenda.

I’m old enough to remember the summer red dust that coated everything that passed down the road leading to our family farm off Bell Town stretch. I also recall just how boggy that red clay got after a heavy rainfall or during the entire winter. 

Back then, we had county commissioners for every township. Each of ’em had a big old yellow machine assigned to them to eliminate the washboards. 

That road machine – often called a road patrol – was operated by a county  employee. It might not have been the best system in the world, but it worked and might work again. Given the statistics, I doubt if our country roads could get any worse.

Uncle Harry always said the real trick was getting the commissioner, the road patrol and that county employee on the same operating schedule. 

If you were lucky or the commissioner owed you a special favor, your driveway and road got leveled off. If you were extra lucky, a little truckload of top soil got dumped into the deepest holes. 

While I’d wager our thoroughfares weren’t the best in the nation at the time, I don’t think South Carolina led the nation in accidental deaths on country roads.

Shucks, I earned my driver’s license driving down country roads. Daddy would stop along a dirt road and swap seats with me so I could take a turn behind the steering wheel.

“Stay sharp,” he said. “Keep your eyes glued on that hood ornament. That’ll keep you all lined up on your side of the road. And don’t get above 25 (mph).” 

He was right, too. I was safe and so was anybody else, provided they stayed on their side of the road. 

The real challenge was meeting up with an old ramshackle log truck. 

“Son, they gotta make a living, too,” Daddy said of the logging truck drivers.

“But they want to hog up the middle, especially when there’s a pine tree growing right by the road. It’s all common sense and you gotta be careful.”

That kind of fatherly advice you don’t forget, especially when it comes from the county sheriff.

Following it is still a good way to keep your name out of the newspaper, too.