More Jackson County Opinions...

May 23, 2001

By Rochelle Beckstine
The Jackson Herald
May 23, 2001

New driving regulations
Speech delivered by Governor Roy Barnes before the next legislative session:
"It was heartwarming for me to see the last legislative session make strides toward reducing the number of teen deaths on the roadways and imposing stricter penalties on those persons who drive while under the influence of alcohol.
"I hope that in the next legislative session we can attack a new front that is no less dangerous than drunk drivers or inexperienced teenagers-distracted drivers. Driver's education becomes a moot point when people drive with distractions. Furthermore, distracted drivers are just as likely to swerve on the roadways as those who have consumed alcoholic beverages and are over the legal limit.
"I read a startling statistic the other day. Did you know that over half of all accidents in the metro area are caused by distracted drivers? Clearly, something has to be done.
In the next legislative session, I will propose sweeping legislation. Something that has not been done before in the whole United States. I propose we eliminate all distractions for drivers. By doing this, we will cut the number of vehicle accidents in half. Now, I'm not just talking of eliminating mobile phone use while a vehicle is in motion. California has restrictions on car phone use, but I don't believe it's enough to simply outlaw talking on the phone while driving. There is a whole host of other distractions, too.
"First, I will outlaw all drive-ins at restaurants and eating and drinking in vehicles. Eating and drinking in the car is a major distraction. To eat and drink in the car, you must drive with only one hand on the wheel. This is not safe. Some people even glance at what they eat. This is also bad.
"Second, I will outlaw radios in motor vehicles. Most accidents involving young people are caused by changing stations on the radio. Radios can be removed at the car dealership.
"Third, I will propose that all advertising road signs be torn down. Road signs are designed to attract the gaze of drivers which means they are not looking at the car ahead of them. In the same vein, I will make it a law that if a person is lost or does not know where he's going, he must turn his four-way flashers on so that everyone around him knows he will make infrequent stops to read street signs.
"Fourth, smoking in the car will be prohibited. I've heard that several accidents have occurred when people drop lit cigarettes or hot car lighters in their laps.
"Lastly, I will make passengers illegal. I think conversations would distract a driver too much in heavy Atlanta traffic. Especially children. Parents have a tendency to reach into the back seat. When this occurs, they have only one hand on the wheel and their eyes briefly leave the road. Fifteen-year-olds can still get their learning permits, but they will now learn to drive using those virtual car games like 'Road Rage.'
"I know what some of you are thinking-this last proposal seems unrealistic. After all, it would eliminate school buses and other group modes of transportation with the exception of MARTA trains, but I think if just one life is saved, it's worth the hassle. Children can do more walking or bicycling like they do in China.
"Please support my proposed legislation by writing your Congress members. All of these proposals are aimed at saving lives and it is my hope, no, my dream, that the United States will follow Georgia's lead in eliminating the distracted driver."

Rochelle Beckstine is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers.

By Tim Thomas
The Jackson Herald
May 23, 2001

Watts' decision bittersweet
I hate the word bittersweet; it's overused. Still, it's the perfect word to describe the community's feelings concerning the announcement this week of Annette Watts' impending departure from Jackson County.
The decision to accept the Davidson College post is both a no-brainer and a slam-dunk for Watts. Davidson is an NCAA Division I school, and the job takes her back to her basketball roots in North Carolina.
It's not a bad move for husband Mike, either. The Goody's Dash Series racer will be exactly within his element in North Carolina, NASCAR's Mecca.
But although we congratulate Watts on this huge opportunity and wish her the best, everyone who's been associated with the Lady Panther basketball program will miss her dearly.
Not only is Watts a great coach, she's a first-rate lady. You won't find her in the middle of a brawl or getting thrown out of a game, even though she's very intense on the court. It's something that has become unique in our society ­ a combination of self-confidence and self-control.
Along those lines, it should be noted that Watts' decision was not a result of the hideous power play within the Jackson County school system, though one couldn't blame her if it were. Davidson apparently contacted her first; if she'd wanted to move due to the political antics, she'd have sought them out.
The greatest asset Watts gives Davidson will be the one most difficult for the BOE to replace; she's a tremendous motivator. All great coaches are great motivators, but not in the way you might think.
Motivation is more a by-product of respect than the result of a pep talk. It comes from a thorough knowledge of the game, from knowing which player should be where on the floor and when, and the ability to transmit that to the team. A coach who coasts his way through the job won't be prepared as well and hence won't command the team's respect. I'll wager Annette Watts has never had that problem.
During my time at The Jackson Herald sports desk, I've worked with two coaches who had the ability to motivate their athletes to reach beyond their evident abilities. One was former Jefferson wrestling coach Jack Keen. The other is Annette Watts.
There have also been a handful of folks who have been a source of personal inspiration for me as well. Coach Watts is one of them.
Good luck, coach. We're all rooting for you.

Tim Thomas is a reporter for The Jackson Herald. He may be reached at the sports desk at 367-2348, or via email at


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