Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Post and Courier
S.C.'s highway fatality rate and improving road conditions:
South Carolina has the highest highway fatality rate in the nation, and some of its worst roads. It's only logical that the state Department of Transportation turns its focus to the rural roads on which most of those deadly accidents occur.
The DOT wants to allocate $50 million annually to address the problem with a variety of improvements, including wider shoulders, raised pavement markings, roadside rumble strips, highly reflective signs, guardrails and the relocation of drainage ditches.
Of course, paving also will provide for road safety, and the hazardous situation should get the Legislature's attention as it looks to increase the state gas tax so that long overdue improvements can be made. The gas tax was last increased in 1987 and is among the lowest in the nation.
The DOT will also look at wider "clear zones" adjacent to roadways, which usually means cutting roadside trees. It should do so selectively, recognizing that there are safety alternatives for scenic roads.
Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall's plan includes improvements to interstates, as well as primary and secondary roads throughout rural South Carolina.
Roadway shortcomings are part of the problem, but highway safety is also diminished by drivers who speed, drive aggressively, don't wear seat belts and are otherwise distracted when they should be keeping their eyes on the road. That's why an initiative headed by the state Department of Public Safety should complement the DOT plan.
State troopers will increase enforcement for dangerous driving including "speed, following too closely and distracted driving behaviors such as texting and driving," according to a DPS spokesman.
With a fatality rate that is 53 percent higher than the national average, both initiatives are welcome. And so would a gas tax increase to further provide for improvements to deteriorating South Carolina highways.
State legislation regarding the Confederate flag:
York County Clerk of Court David Hamilton had the right idea, we think, in choosing to remove a Confederate flag and other Civil War memorabilia from the courtroom in the county courthouse before the celebration of its grand reopening Sunday. But when questions arose about the legality of removing the flag under the South Carolina Heritage Act, Hamilton had little choice but to comply with state rules.
Ultimately, though, we think the only fair and lasting solution is to change to Heritage Act to allow local jurisdictions more control over historical monuments and memorials.
We understand that many of the old statues, plaques and place names genuinely reflect the state's heritage and are a part of South Carolina's historical landscape. A wholesale attempt to change every plaque or demolish every statue of a Confederate soldier would be a misguided and futile attempt to erase history.
But there is no rationale that justifies a Confederate flag - a symbol of racial injustice and hatred for many - hanging in a county courtroom. We commend Hamilton's instincts in using the occasion of the courthouse reopening as an opportunity to move the flag to a different, more appropriate location in the courthouse.
Regardless of the Heritage Act, that was the right thing to do.
We realize that Hamilton must comply with the law. But we hope the attorney general will find legal grounds to allow the flag to be moved.
The Legislature needs to defer to the judgment of residents regarding the fate of local memorials and monuments in their own backyards.
The Aiken Standard
Improving moped safety laws in South Carolina
Gov. Henry McMaster, now official successor to former Gov. Nikki Haley, will likely have a full slate moving forward.
With Haley departing to assume her new role as ambassador to the United Nations as part of President Donald Trump's administration, South Carolina lawmakers no doubt will be putting bugs in McMaster's ear to pass legislation otherwise stalled during Haley's tenure.
One of those initiatives involves repeated efforts to improve moped safety laws here in the Palmetto State. Three bills have already been filed with S. 197, filed by Sen. Greg Hembree, R-North Myrtle Beach, receiving the most traction.
S. 197 passed by an overwhelming 39-0 vote on Jan. 26. It's expected to travel to the House next week.
Moped legislation sputtered in 2016 after Gov. Haley vetoed a measure that had broad, bipartisan support. Haley's reasoning? It clashed philosophically and ideologically with a common conservative talking point of government over-regulation.
"I believe that adults over the age of 18 - who are allowed to vote and serve our military - should decide for themselves what they should wear for their personal safety," the veto message said.
The bill introduced in the 2015-2016 session included numerous reforms. Among them included compelling moped drivers to wear a reflective vest and have a blinking taillight installed on mopeds. Both are common sense solutions to visibility issues that inevitably lead to moped crashes, many of which happen at nighttime, often with deadly consequences.
In 2015, there were 50 moped deaths in South Carolina, an increase of 57 percent over the previous year, according to multiple media reports.
In further defense of her veto, Haley said the new regulations exceed those for motorcycles and are inconsistent with laws for bicycles and other low-speed vehicles, such as golf carts," the governor wrote.
Comparing mopeds to motorcycles is apples and oranges. Motorcycles are capable of driving at the posted speed limit. They also are required by law to shine a bright headlight - day or night - with helmets required for younger operators.
Lumping mopeds in with bicycles and golf carts is ludicrous. Neither bicycles nor golf carts are allowed to drive in travel lanes as mopeds are. Mopeds share the road with cars, trucks and motorcycles.
While we strongly disagree with Haley on the moped issue, it doesn't define her as a person. She's a strong leader who will represent us well in the U.N.
As for McMaster, as a former state attorney general, we're betting he holds a more acute understanding of how improving moped safety will make things easier on law enforcement and first responders.
This is why we remain hopeful moped safety upgrades will buzz through the General Assembly and onto McMaster's desk.