Editorial: Travel ban was right call

Closing public areas to members of the public is a drastic measure reserved for drastic times.
And with the advantage of hindsight, the decision by our elected leaders to enact travel bans and reserve the roads for emergency personnel — at least on Long Island — was without a doubt the right call to make.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for a travel ban in the state’s 13 southernmost counties that ended up lasting nine hours — from 11 p.m. Monday to 8 a.m. Tuesday. Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter extended the ban in Riverhead until noon; in Southold, it lasted until 3 p.m. per the orders of Supervisor Scott Russell.

“I don’t need government to help protect me from myself,” many will say. This is a fair point, to a degree. Of course, elected leaders are expected to respect the public’s right to enjoy public assets. But drastic times, as they say, call for drastic measures.

And, some might say sadly, many people do need government to protect them from themselves. Indeed, 911 is often the first number called when someone unwisely hits the road at the wrong time, spins out and ends up requiring the assistance of emergency personnel — many of whom, in this neck of the woods, are volunteers.

More snow than ever (at least, since record-keeping began 30 years ago) touched down in Orient this week, which got 30 inches. Twenty inches or more hit most of Suffolk County. The second-highest recorded Long Island snowfall took place in Islip in 2013, according to the National Weather Service.

These statistics all point to the fine line elected leaders often have to walk, balancing the public’s freedom to travel where and when they want with overall public safety — which could be compromised if a few bad apples hit the road and distract emergency responders with needless calls. Many will notice that stranded motorists didn’t become much of a news story this time, as with past storms. Those who made the difficult decision to shut down roadways for a reasonable time for the public’s safety deserve our thanks — as does everyone who was out in the storm clearing the way so the rest of us could resume our daily lives.