EDITORIAL: Public safety

Mississippians can expect continuing enhanced traffic law enforcement during the Labor Day weekend, an effort started almost two weeks ago that has netted 21,000 citations (tickets) issued and 370 DUI arrests.
Steve Simpson, the commissioner of public safety, said the department he heads, which includes the Highway Patrol, is serious about enforcing the slogan, “Over the limit, under arrest.”
The Labor Day crackdown, which started in mid-August, involves 50 additional troopers on patrol.
While the overall highway death count for highway accidents has declined nationwide, the toll remains fearsome. In Mississippi during 2008, 783 people died in highway accidents, and 266 of the deaths were related to impaired driving – drugs and/or alcohol.
Simpson said the DUI death figure was 15.4 percent lower than in 2007 but was still unacceptably high. We fully support Simpson and the patrol in its heightened enforcement.
Excessive speed was a factor in 377 Mississippi traffic deaths. No matter the posted speed limit some drivers will exceed it and cast any safety concerns to the wind in the process. Consistent enforcement with unfailing and expensive consequences is the best deterrent.

Improvements ahead
A plan discussed by Simpson to establish branch medical examiner operations in north Mississippi, including a forensic pathologist resident in the region, should be pursued and funded by legislators. A branch crime laboratory already operates in Batesville, but autopsies must be performed in Jackson. Tupelo and Oxford both have large, specialized medical centers with which the state might seek a working partnership in forensic pathology.
Criminal investigations and autopsies require timely action, and expanding the assets while decentralizing those operations from an over-burdened Jackson center will better serve the whole state.
We also applaud Simpson’s plans for improving the department’s public service functions, which includes handier and more easily obtained license renewal, initial license issuance, and examinations for first-time drivers.
Simpson said upgrades for existing driver examination centers statewide have helped speed the flow of people seeking regular and specialized licenses, renewals, and replacements.
However, Simpson said, empowering school-based driver education programs to administer and certify drivers’ road tests and the written examinations for first-time student drivers could make the whole operation more efficient – and faster for other customers.
We also support pilot programs using automated kiosks for every-other-cycle license renewal. They eventually would be placed in high-pedestrian traffic areas like malls if initial results are encouraging.

NEMS Daily Journal