The Merritt Parkway is acknowledged as a local treasure. Dating back to the earliest days of highway building, it provides a scenic trip through our beautiful region.

It's also dangerous. Because it was built for an earlier era of travel, it can't safely accommodate the mad rush of the modern commute. With limited sight lines and encroaching forestry, the parkway presents a daily hazard.

None of this is news. But an ongoing project by the state Department of Transportation to eliminate some particularly unsafe trees has belatedly irked the Merritt Parkway Conservancy. That group says the DOT doesn't appreciate the parkway's history and charm.

It's a fair point, and the state does, rightfully, put a priority on safety over aesthetics. But the simple truth is this -- the road won't be safer until people drive slower. Without drivers taking responsibility for themselves, all the safety fixes in the world won't matter.

The Merritt is not Interstate 95 (which has its own serious drawbacks). Treating it as such only leads to more accidents.

As preservationists say, the trees are a defining feature of the roadway. But even at moderate speeds, there are any number along the route that present an unacceptable risk. A moderate tree-cutting plan, as the DOT has undertaken, will not ruin the road.

But its safety benefits will be limited until drivers act more responsibly. A road built for Sunday drivers will always be the wrong place to test your vehicle's limits.