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Interstate bombs

THIS past weekend's bomb explosions on Interstate 40 near Checotah, Okla., provide a graphic reminder that the US Interstate Highway System is used by more than just passenger cars. The 4 a.m. incident involved a mishap between a passenger car and a truck carrying 10 United States Army bombs. The weapons were being shipped from an Army ammunition plant to North Carolina.

Several points stand out in this incident:

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Foremost, of course, the townspeople of Checotah cannot help being grateful that the ammunition truck -- and there were actually two trucks, the one that exploded and a second truck that was not involved in the incident -- passed through the community during the hours between midnight and daybreak, when the freeway is sparsely traveled.

But that's also the rub. The trucks would have rolled on across the continent before reaching their final destination. There have been a number of somewhat similar incidents in past months involving carriers transporting chemicals and other dangerous products. States and local governments, as well as transportation companies, need to take better precautions to ensure safety when such obviously dangerous cargoes are being shipped. In the case of weapons, should not the Pentagon use a carefully regulate d convoy system to protect against mishaps better?

The nation's Interstate Highway System is increasingly clogged with passenger cars, not to mention the thousands of long-distance trucks that thunder back and forth. If bombs, of all things, are to be transported on the freeways, the Pentagon surely has a responsibility to take special steps to ensure public safety.

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