South Carolina editorial roundup
Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Index-Journal on staying alert while driving:
All the myriad days, weeks and months designated for this or that cause or awareness campaign might be enough to make you cross-eyed, but some should make you bolt upright and think about the message.
That’s the case this week with the AAA Carolinas’ reminder for motorists. And like many of these campaigns, the message is a perennial. National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week began Nov. 3 and continues through this Sunday. It’s no coincidence that it ties right in with when we all set our clocks back an hour before hitting the hay on Saturday night or early Sunday morn.
“With fall activities in full swing and the end of daylight saving time, there is a greater risk for drowsiness behind the wheel,” said Tiffany Wright, AAA Carolinas spokeswoman wrote in a press release. “We urge motorists to get the full recommended amount of sleep each night despite their busy schedules as drowsy driving is now involved in one in five fatal crashes on U.S. roadways each year.”
The symptoms of drowsy driving many of us already know or have experienced: Having trouble keeping eyes open, drifting from lanes and not remembering the last few miles driven. But AAA cautions that more than half of drivers involved in fatigue-related crashes experienced no symptoms before falling asleep behind the wheel.
Sleep is the best prevention to fatigue-related wrecks as AAA notes that missing just one to two hours of the recommended seven hours of sleep each day doubles — yes, doubles — the risk for a crash.
AAA Carolinas suggested the following to help drivers avoid crashes:
- Rest Up: Get plenty of rest before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle. If you do begin to feel drowsy while driving, pull over immediately and rest or call a family member or friend for assistance.
- Be prepared for morning/afternoon sun glare: Sun glare in the morning or late afternoon can cause temporary blindness. To reduce the glare, wear high-quality sunglasses and adjust sun visors as needed. Use of the night setting on rearview mirrors can reduce glare from headlights approaching from the rear.
- Car care maintenance: Keep headlights, taillights, signal lights and windows (inside and out) clean.
- Ensure headlights are properly aimed: Misaimed headlights blind other drivers and reduce visibility. And keep headlights on low beams when following another vehicle, so other drivers are not blinded.
- Reduce your speed and increase your following distances. It is more difficult to judge other vehicles’ speeds and distances at night.
- Be mindful of pedestrians and crosswalks. Yield the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks and do not pass vehicles stopped at crosswalks.
The good news is that the auto industry is doing its part to curb drowsy driving, adding features that alert drivers when they might be falling asleep at the wheel, such as warnings when automobiles are drifting out of their lanes and collision warning systems.
While the safety advances manufacturers have devised are great, they are no guarantee and certainly should not be wholly relied upon. Applying common sense and getting that right amount of sleep should remain at the top of your driver to-do list.
The Times and Democrat on weather conditions for farmers:
The year 2019 on the farm: hot and dry. Drought is not new news.
Even the casual observer of fields in the state’s leading agricultural region knows corn without irrigation suffered to the point of destruction. Cotton, peanuts and soybeans fared better, but as you’ll find out in today’s T&D special section, “Farming 2019,” the heat and lack of rain had negative impact on those crops too.
Just how negative in many respects depends on where a farmer lives, what he planted and when. Some areas of The T&D Region’s counties got a lot more rain than others, which were bone dry.
Today’s section includes accounts from individual row-crop farmers and what they faced in 2019: Irrigated vs. dryland crops, good yields and bad yields, low prices and OK prices. And you’ll read about better times for dairy farmers - finally - and the state of livestock in the region.
One man with his eye on the big picture is S.C. Commissioner of Agriculture and farmer Hugh Weathers of Bowman. He writes today in a Page A1 column that times have been tough, with uncertainty high among farmers. But as the official elected to be the watchdog and advocate for S.C. agribusiness, he states: “Despite the difficulties, there are some real bright spots in South Carolina’s agricultural economy.”
- The growing state Hemp Farming Program.
- Recruiting and developing new industries in the agribusiness sector.
- Opportunities in international markets, notably the United Kingdom and Egypt.
- Expansion of broadband internet access in rural areas.
Weathers states: “South Carolina’s strong agricultural traditions provide a base for a bright future.” He points to the 2017 Census of Agriculture showing the proportion of women farmers in South Carolina is growing, and is higher than the national average.
The harvest for 2019 is ongoing. The hope is yields will be better than anticipated and prices will cooperate. The international trade situation will have an impact on final results. Ultimately, the outcome will vary from farm to farm and could hold the key to the future.
Veteran Calhoun County Clemson Extension agent Charles Davis says timing is critical.
In the face of weather issues, low prices, international trade disputes and the high cost of farming, “the cycle of bad news seems to be endless,” he writes in a column on Page D1 Sunday.
“Ag lenders are on pins and needles dreading the positions they may be forced to take next spring. Most have bent over backwards to try and make things work to keep our farmers farming, to help the next generation get a foothold, and still it seems like the deck has been stacked against them,” Davis states.
“Many farmers are facing stresses they have not faced before. . The next six months will tell the tale of whether a farmer will be able to walk into his lender’s office next spring and be able to convince them that making a loan to produce a crop is a financially sound thing to do. If that happens, we live to farm another year. If that doesn’t happen, then the landscape of agriculture in our area will see a drastic change.”
In addition to “hot” and “dry,” we used the word “hopeful” in titling today’s special section - and we’ll remain so for the future of farming in the state’s leading agricultural region.
The Post and Courier on female inmate’s mental health:
South Carolina must improve how it cares for mentally ill prisoners, and it’s happening broadly under a court order that arose from a decade of class-action litigation. But according to a psychiatrist who works at the Camille Graham women’s prison in Columbia, conditions worsened between 2014 when she regularly made rounds there and earlier this year when she returned as a contract doctor. That is both frustrating and disappointing.
According to her recent testimony before a House oversight committee, the abuse and neglect suffered by mentally ill women — isolation and deprivation — was intentional and meant to discourage them from seeking help.
“They punished those that would (seek crisis care) by these means and so that got the numbers down of people complaining about being suicidal,” Dr. Pamela Crawford told lawmakers. “So we had people that were afraid (of seeking help). ... It was, in my opinion, orchestrated to make it punitive for them to seek help.”
Dr. Crawford, a retired state psychiatrist who came back to work at the Department of Corrections in May, had testified in the agency’s defense in that class-action lawsuit. But last month, she described to lawmakers how patients she treated before 2014 had “deteriorated” greatly and how at least one schizophrenic inmate had been removed from mental health rolls and her diagnosis revised. And, worse, no one spoke up about the conditions until she did this past summer.
The good news is that the Department of Corrections quickly cleaned house, disciplining some staffers, including a supervisor in the mental health unit, and reversing what Dr. Crawford described as de facto policies that led to a few psychotic women sleeping on bare bunks and being deprived of basic hygiene — for up to two years.
The prison team responded in part by holding “mass mental health days” to clear backlogs of women awaiting help. No criminal charges arose from an investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division.
Separate but relevant, a correctional officer from another prison broke down in tears at the same hearing in describing how she tried to fight against a staff culture steeped in the “socialized normalization of deviance.” But she said she was demoted and labeled “insubordinate.” That speaks to what might have gone wrong at Camille Graham and what must change to ensure mentally ill prisoners are treated humanely.
Still, what Dr. Crawford described at Camille Graham as “abuse” and “neglect” has no easy solutions. The state, much less the DOC, simply doesn’t have the psychiatric hospital beds needed to treat its most seriously mentally ill patients, prisoners or not. That needs to change.
Dr. Crawford’s testimony was an eye-opener when it shouldn’t have been. Lawmakers must be told the truth about what happens behind prison walls, but they are too often insulated from the kind of raw facts the veteran psychiatrist delivered. A summary of her findings, for instance, somehow never made it to the committee before she began her public testimony.