A triumphant story of heroism played out early Saturday on Interstate 20 near Grovetown.
It also was a story of needless risk.
As noted in The Augusta Chronicle, Joseph Banks was freed from his burning vehicle when Columbia County deputies and a Georgia state trooper cut him loose from his seatbelt and pulled him to safety.
Other motorists watched helplessly until the emergency responders arrived, with Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue personnel dousing the flames as the other workers rescued Banks.
He’s now recovering from burns and a broken pelvis, and knows he’s lucky to be alive.
“We should thank these people every day,” Banks said, referring to his rescuers, especially Trooper 1st Class Matthew McDonald and deputies Bobby Atma and Wes Ward.
Indeed we should. One way is to not do stupid things that force emergency workers to put their lives at risk to save ours.
Banks acknowledges that he hadn’t slept in nearly 24 hours when his pickup crashed into a guardrail, leaving him trapped in the burning vehicle. His job keeps him on the road, he says, and while he claims he always pulls over when he feels like he’s too tired, he admits “I don’t know what happened” before the crash.
Here’s a safe bet: He fell asleep. The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration says an average of more than 55,000 vehicle crashes per year are blamed on drowsy drivers, resulting in more than 40,000 injuries and more than 1,500 deaths.
Driving while nodding off is risky behavior, just like driving drunk. Making matters worse, doing so not only endangers the driver, but other motorists, too.
As Banks’ crash shows, it also needlessly puts at risk the heroes whose jobs require them to rescue people from their own irresponsibility.