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Editorial: People must make changes to prevent another crash

The images were as shocking as the reality of the incident.

A tractor-trailer on Aug. 11 crashed into a stationary fire engine on I-85. That engine crashed into another, which crashed into another. The rear of the trucks were mangled and damaged. The crash tossed debris onto the interstate, which was closed for hours. Meanwhile, the firefighters who were tending to a truck that caught on fire had just a moment or two to save themselves before becoming victims.

Fortunately, none of the first responders were hurt. Inattention and a failure to move over were blamed for the crash.

Fire engines were put out of commission for months. First responders faced logistical challenges and needed to band together to provide services and resources for those within the district covered by Millers Ferry. Rowan County residents,  particularly those within and moving through the Millers Ferry district, are fortunate that there’s been uninterrupted fire service. Millers Ferry is not exactly a small volunteer fire department, but it’s still a major loss when three trucks are put out of commission in one incident.

The crash has prompted some positive changes to protect first responders and get motorists to pay attention, as reporter Shavonne Potts wrote in a news story published Sunday.

Nick Martin, of the Salisbury Fire Department, said trucks are used to block off lanes of traffic on high-traffic roads like I-85, Jake Alexander Boulevard or Innes Street.

Other departments are buying speed bumps to get drivers to slow down. Millers Ferry is planning on buying tools like wireless headsets to make roadside collision responses safer.

The crash must also open motorists’ eyes (figuratively and literally) to the reality that too many drive distracted or tired. It’s not hard to find motorists actively using their smartphones on a drive down any Rowan County road.

Kannapolis Fire Chief Tracy Winecoff may have said it best when he told Potts for Sunday’s story, “They’ve got to really increase their level of awareness and their ability to pay attention.”

Text messages can wait. So can phone calls, especially if you don’t have a hands-free device. If you’re exhausted and you don’t otherwise need to be on the road, stay home. Reaction times are slower when you’re tired.

Most relevant in the case of the Millers Ferry accident: move over when first responders are working on the roadside. Not only is it the law, but it’s in the best interest of people and property.

As G.A. Barger, of the N.C. Highway Patrol said immediately after the accident, “Get as far over as you need.”

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