Madison County Opinion...

December 12, 2001


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
December 12, 2001, 2001

Frankly Speaking


DOT needs to improve Dogsboro traffic safety
Madison County continues to grow. That is made clear by constant applications for new subdivisions and building permits. Unfortunately, all the growth is in housing. Only occasionally do we hear of the successful opening of a new business.
When commercial growth does arrive, it will be concentrated in the Dogsboro area. Efforts are under way to acquire and expand the Hull-Dogsboro water system. Significant portions of the Dogsboro area have been rezoned for business. Eventually, the Dogsboro area will become the major retail area of Madison County.
The result of this growth is steady increase in traffic through the Dogsboro intersection as Madison County residents commute to Athens-Clarke for jobs and shopping. As they travel, they encounter slow traffic as other workers and customers enter and leave the retail facilities in the area, or transit to the new Hull-Sanford School. Traffic planners continue to fall behind in the safety needs of the area.
It was only after massive public protest, and the launching of this newspaper, that a basic traffic light was erected in the Dogsboro intersection. Later, again after appeals by the public, turn arrows were added to ease the danger of left turns from Glenn Carrie Road and into Hwy. 106.
But another serious problem has not been addressed. Drivers attempting to negotiate the intersection at night have serious problems judging the distance and speed of oncoming traffic. Secondly, drivers on Hwy. 29 continue to approach the intersection at excessive speeds, making it difficult to stop when the light turns red. An observer at the intersection can easily see that many drivers go under red lights, or cross the safety bars prior to achieving a full stop.
Department of Transportation engineers need to take another look at the the Dogsboro intersection. They need to place new speed limits and warning lights on the approaches to the traffic light. The speed zone should begin at the Clarke County line to the south and the Piedmont Road to the north. Speeds in this area should be no more than 45 mph.
Flashing lights such as those at the intersection of Peter Street and the Athens Perimeter should be installed on Hwy. 29 on both sides of the intersection. These lights would activate just before the traffic lights turn red. That would alert drivers to begin slowing down as they approach the light.
The Hwy. 29 South corridor, especially around the Dogsboro intersection, continues to hold the potential for tragic accidents. Safety in this area should be constantly monitored, and improvements installed before more people die or are seriously injured. My plea to DOT is not to wait for more deaths before they act.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His email address is frankg@mcga.net.

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Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
December12, 2001

From the Editor's Desk

Who needs sleep?
The futuristic movies of the old days make me laugh — slow robots, neon fashions, enormous computers with big, flashing buttons.
Some special effects in those films required hidden strings and spaceships often looked less like high-tech creations than Kmart quarter rides in front of the store.
Still, the old space age flicks are endearing. And those filmmakers had one thing right. They knew technology would continue to reshape the world.
Nowadays there are hand transplants, artificial hearts, talk of cloning.
Medical and technological advancements continually astound us.
And frighten us.
One new development seems particularly notable. Scientists believe they may have a drug which makes sleep unnecessary or at least helps people sustain an alert wakefulness for days on end.
An article in the Dec. 3 New Yorker tells the story of modafinil, which was recently approved by the FDA for treating narcolepsy.
According to the report, tests of modafinil on rats and then humans showed that the drug caused prolonged wakefulness without the negative side effects of traditional stimulants such as caffeine.
The article quotes a pharmacologist who suggests that humans have developed two modes of wakefulness: One is associated with vigilance, “where one is tensely alert to potential threats in the environment.” This type of wakefulness stimulates neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin which lead to hyperactivity and reductions in reaction time. The other type of wakefulness triggers histamine pathways in the brain, leading to a calmer state, which allows the brain to focus on “cognitive tasks.”
The pharmacologist says the trouble with traditional stimulants is that they “indiscriminately activate all wakefulness-promoting neurons throughout the brain.” But modafinil stimulates the portions of the brain where “higher executive functions of cognition and emotion seem to lie.”
Wow, don’t sleep and still be alert. Think about all the insomniacs who could forget those stress-filled nights of dread for the next morning. Toss that Nodoze aside, modafinil would allow them to stay alert despite the lack of sleep.
If you’re like me, you’re starting to get uncomfortable. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?
There certainly has to be a catch, even if it’s not evident yet. There always is a drawback. Common sense says that wonder drugs should be viewed with skepticism.
Yes, it’s amazing that researchers could make sleep an option.
But like the cloning debate, there are moral issues to such advancements.
Think about the abuse potential of such a drug. Work addicts will pop those pills and head out the door with their head never hitting a pillow. Day upon day of this surely cannot be good for your sanity or your heart.
We know that we sleep away one-third of our lives.
Perhaps scientists could reduce this fraction for us.
But I don’t welcome the thought.
I prefer a long, solid sleep, a cup of coffee, a productive work day, a little exercise and some downtime, maybe a movie.
Sometimes I catch an old flick, like the one where a cone-shaped head warns us about the future and how the world will be different. And I laugh and click off the TV, heading to bed, eager for my head to hit the pillow, where hours of dreaming wait.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.


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