Star Review Editorial Board
Two young women died and 20 others were injured in a fatal crash that sent two cars into onlookers watching cars on O Street during the annual Memorial Day cruise.
Twelve years ago, a 35-year-old woman was killed as she tried to protect her children from a car that jumped the curb on another night’s cruise. This event was “sanctioned”, taking place under the auspices of Americaruise, a national hot rod/classic car gathering held in Lincoln in the late 90s and early 2000s, but not hasn’t been here for two decades.
The May 29 event was, in fact, unauthorized. And that led to increased enforcement on O Street by Lincoln Police and the Nebraska State Patrol that night and the nights before.
But there was no way a police cruiser could be parked at every intersection over the five miles W of 17th through 84th Streets.
And there were no officers present when a high-speed car, driven by an Omaha man, struck the young women’s vehicle while turning left on 52nd and O streets and sent the two vehicles into the Barnes & Noble car park spectators.
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“We’re going to change a lot of things when it comes to people who come to Lincoln to wreak havoc like this,” Police Chief Teresa Ewins said at a news conference this week. Naturally, Ewins did not detail these changes. There is still a lot to understand.
But something must be found to avoid another cruise night tragedy.
In the past, police have encouraged businesses on O Street to report those gathering in their parking lots for trespassing, allowing them to disperse crowds. This might go too far for overnight cruising.
But, perhaps, a “curfew” closing time could be set that would send home many, if not most of the thousands of people who gather along O to see the cars before the speeders and the exhausted artists cannot disturb the debates.
Other tools – temporary lane closures and speed limit reductions – are also available to control traffic at night cruising. But the real changes, and here comes the hardest part, must also come from the personal responsibility of the drivers when they join the other cars in the cruise.
It should be noted that the vast majority of those who go on the cruise do so responsibly, driving by slowing O to give those sitting in their lawn chairs, sitting on the tailgates and standing near the curb, the opportunity to take a good look at their vehicles.
And, as the 5,000 people who have attended the Memorial Day Cruise for 20 years show, Lincoln loves its classic cars and hot rods.
It would therefore be a shame if the city and the police were forced to take measures that would interrupt the cruise. But, as Ewins said, some changes need to be made to try to ensure the cruise will be safe for spectators and drivers.
And those changes need to be widely publicized and in place by next May so the tradition of Memorial Day weekend can continue and vintage cars and hot rods can once again roll down the main street of Lincoln.