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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Some Thoughts on Road Deaths: Move It On Over

 Every time I take a trip like I just did, which involves a lot of driving, I come to the same conclusion.
This time however, I have more purpose to my argument. That is mostly in light of the events of the last two weeks.
The thing that stuck in my mind the most was a sign I saw a few times in Nashville and Memphis, which are both in the State of Tennessee. It was one of those signs they have on an electric billboard directly above the highway that gives you current road conditions and traffic tie ups. If there is nothing really going on, then they give you some sort of other message or info. In this case, it was the amount of roadway fatalities this year vs. last year in the State.
According to the sign, last year there were 915 and this year there has already been 984. Now, based on the way I see these people drive and the weather and the season, I am pretty sure that total will rise above 1000 by the time the ball falls in Times Square this year. I don't scare easily, but I have to say it is full combat driving in Nashville and Louisville and you better be ready to deal with it. Memphis and New Orleans were not any better and Columbus Ohio is one of the most dangerous stretches I have ever been on.
I can certainly say that the roads in Nashville, Louisville and Cincinnati are some very dangerous roads and the drivers on them are not very skilled at keeping safe on them. That would be bad enough in itself to create the kind of numbers above. If you do the math, that is about 50,000 people every year that die on American roads. If you do more math, that is about 150 per day, every day of every year.
Now, the Sandy Hook massacre was a terrible thing. I have written that a few times now, and this is not in any way to take away from that. But the reality is that 5 Sandy Hook massacres take place every day of the year on American Roads. True, this is just a part of life. Lots of people die all over every day for lots of reasons. But many are trying to figure out how to avoid these types of shootings, and it appears to be very complicated and not really feasible. In the case of the road deaths I think it is very simple. I think it applies to the gun shootings too, but I will tie that together at the end.
When you drive on a roadway, any roadway, safety is all about attention, rules and flow. If you remove any of those factors then something will go wrong and people will crash, get hurt and a certain percentage will die. So let's examine those factors.
Bad drivers fall into two categories in my opinion. Those that simply don't care at all and those that are obstinate and go out of their way to be bad in so many ways and piss you off. Either of these two are bad enough to get you and/or them killed. But the most dangerous ones are the obstinate ones, because the ones who don't pay attention and don't care are easy enough to spot and predict and thus avoid trouble from. They all pretty much do the same things and thus you can work within their incompetence. Should they have a drivers license? No, they don't deserve one either, but they likely will not get you killed if you know what you are doing out there.
The obstinate ones will. They refuse to observe the rules of the road, and really of common courtesy. They frustrate and infuriate other drivers ( I am one of those for sure) and in so doing cause pileups. I experienced that multiple times today. And most of all they kill the flow of the traffic and bunch up multiple cars and that leads to the really bad accidents. And do they do this on purpose.
For the most part, the worst thing they do is drive in the left lane and will neither pass or refuse to move over. In all cases I will attempt to pass them on the right (although I should not have to) but that can be dangerous and at times impossible. This is because they are so obstinate that they will go exactly the speed of the car to their right so you have no options. What can we do about these types to avoid the accidents they eventually cause?
In Canada and the United States we all have the right to obtain a drivers license once we are of age. But rights come with obligations and those rights must be earned and maintained. Sadly, that is now how it works. It is how it should work, but not how it does work. That needs to change.
I am proposing the only solution I see to this problem. Strict diligence and enforcement. As I drove today it was very apparent that the police who are out there are not doing anything about this but are very happy to sit off the road and try to pick off speeders, most of who do not bother anyone or cause any accidents. That has to change.
Police are supposed to be out there to serve and protect, and right now they are doing neither of those two things. Not that this is their fault. They are doing their jobs, a job we are telling them we want them to do. So it is on us to change this.Should we have speed limits on highways? Maybe we should, but I doubt it makes much difference in the amount of accidents we have. I speed. I admit that. I am an extremely fast driver. But I can handle my car at all times at very high speed. And if the road conditions and weather dictate I am more than happy to slow down to whatever it takes to be safe about it. I can safely say that I have never been in an unsafe position because of the speed I was driving at.In my opinion, the problem is the left lane drivers who refuse to respect the rules of the road. Here is my solution.First, I would take all of those police and put them in unmarked cars and not in uniform and just let them drive the highways. Second, I would post a sign on every on ramp on every highway stating that those unmarked police are out there and will be strictly enforcing the left lane passing only rule.Third, anyone caught the first time not moving over at the first opportunity when they are blocking another car shall get a $100 fine and a warning. A second offense and they get a $1000 fine and suspension of their drivers license for one month and obviously a stiff increase in their insurance premiums.A third offense would result in a $5000 fine and a two year suspension and a fourth offense would result in a lifetime ban on having a drivers license.Yes, that is very hard line, but I am of the opinion you could cut the deaths by at least 1/3 right way and by 1/2 within 5 years. Over a 5 year period, that would save about 100,000 lives and most likely even more than that. Isn't that just the practical solution to a simple problem?The sad reality of life is that in the Sandy Hook massacre it was a crazy person, just as it was in Aurora in that theater and Virginia Tech at that school and just about everywhere else that a gunman loads up and just starts taking innocent lives. There are some things you can do about that, but in reality very little. Crazy people will do crazy things and we can only do so much to stop them.
We can try to get the guns out of their hands, and remove assault type rifles from the general population who don't need to have them, but no matter what we cannot stop this from happening from time to time.
With the drivers they are not crazies. They are just ignorant, common lawbreakers who will never stop unless they are forced to do so. They have no sense of courtesy or common sense and have to be persuaded to stop or removed for the safety of all others.
If that is what it takes, then that is what we should do. Period.

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