The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants you to know that “On average, a pedestrian was killed every two hours and injured every seven minutes in traffic crashes.” (Source: Traffic Safety Facts: Pedestrians, April 2014.)
And they’re doing something about it, too.
While other aspects of driving safety continue to improve, pedestrian fatalities due to traffic crashes are up eight percent since 2009.
Perhaps if pedestrians stopped placing themselves in front of objects with mass traveling at speed? I may not be as smart as the federal government but that seems like a big part of the problem to me.
Physics has got to physics, yo know? Physics has no desire to play nice, do what’s fair, be compassionate, take sides, or even attempt to adhere to the rules of good form. Like Dr. Momma used to say, “physics does what physics does.” It’s apolitical. Asexual, too, but if you disrespect physics it will fuck you over.
The NHTSA’s solution is one with real traction. Make $2 million in grant money available to cities with high rates of pedestrian deaths. Because, money can buy you love. The money is to be used to “influence the safety of pedestrians through public education and enforcement initiatives.”
Yeah, that’ll work.
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I freely admit it. I cried like a little girl that first night in jail. They say never let ’em see weakness but I couldn’t help it. But at the same time I wasn’t oblivious. I could see the other prisoners betting cigarettes on how long I’d last. But I’d show ’em all!
The next day I was released to the yard along with everyone else. Dammit. Then a big mean looking bald guy approached me. Here it comes, I thought. This is how it ends for me.
“What are you in for, man?” he asked me.
I looked him straight in the eye. “Seat belt violations, motherfucker,” I said. “One shitload of tickets.”
They pretty much left me alone after that…
I’ll be straight up with you. I think our nation’s fixation with programs like Click It Or Ticket (CIOT) is misguided. And I’ll tell you why.
Some argue that CIOT is a violation of our civil rights. They say that government has no business in coercing us to take care of ourselves. This is especially a sticking point for opponents of motorcycle helmet laws.
Some have argued that seat belt enforcement is an invasion of our privacy because officers have to look into vehicles without probable cause.
These are interesting points that may or may not have some validity. But I say fuck all that as irrelevant. I say that safety enforcement should be prioritized based on a very simple criteria. Just for fun, I’ll call it who is the meat with the brain splatter.
This approach is a simple one and seeks to understand who is at risk, not the nature of the infraction.
Consider an idiot who drives without their seat belt. Who’s meat are they risking? Their own. If they decide to go SVA (single vehicle accident) into a tree or roll their rig, they are the ones who will suffer from brain splatter. SVAs are a special case that, unless the result of something like mechanical failure or acts of God, are generally textbook examples of self-Darwinism. The vast majority of SVAs are caused by intoxicants, excessive speed, and/or operator error.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand that shoveling up the brain splatter can be disturbing, but that’s not a valid reason for prioritizing enforcement of seat belt laws artificially high. Besides, the people who scrape up brains – that’s their job. One that probably pays two to three times what I make, and with excellent benefits, too. Sorry, they can deal with it.
Note: I’m not talking about children here. The drivers of vehicles have a moral obligation to protect underage passengers. (This will be address by my hypothesis below.)
The same thing goes for motorcycle helmets, too. When I ride I always wear a helmet. You’d have to be a friggin’ moron to do otherwise. (Case in point: See Ben Rothlisberger.) My head happens to be where I store my gray matter and I’m pretty fucking partial to that shit. It’s all-important to me and oh-so-fragile and irreplaceable, so yeah, I’m going to protect it. Therefore I have never ridden without a full helmet. None of that “screw the cops” half-helmet bullshit for me.
Again, though, if you opt to ride without a helmet, who are you risking? Yourself. Sure, you might get brains on someone’s windshield but the presence (or not) of your helmet is not very likely to have a life or death impact on others.
So why the emphasis on the enforcement of laws like these? Where the friggin’ hell are the programs for things like red light runners? Ever heard of one? I sure haven’t.
The thing with red light runners is that they put the lives of other people than themselves at extreme high risk of serious injury and death. If we want to enforce some traffic laws, why the hell don’t we start with something like that?
My hypothesis is simple:
Proactive enforcement of traffic safety laws should be prioritized based on the danger to innocent people.
Drivers who refuse to wear seat belts, stupid and annoying though they may be, by far only pose a significant risk to themselves. Therefore, under my hypothesis, enforcement prioritization of seat belt laws would be minimal.
Drivers under the effects of intoxicants greatly risk the lives of innocent people, therefore proactive enforcement for that should be very high. Ditto for those who dangerously break laws like running red lights.
To this day our DUII laws are far too gutless. Yes, the enforcement prioritization is there, as it should be. There are DUII programs and funding. But the punishments are far too lax. If I had my say, upon conviction for a first offense the offender would lose their license to drive for three years and the vehicle, regardless of ownership, would be forfeit. Period. A punishment would sure make vehicle owners think about driving while intoxicated, eh? And it would force employers and friends to be highly discriminating of who they trusted with their wheels, too.
A second conviction would result in a loss of driving privileges for life and mandatory jail time.
Talking on cell phones while driving or, worse yet, texting, is rightly getting attention, too. For once, things might be working as they should. Rare, I know. When innocent lives hang in the balance due to egregious selfishness and stupidity, enforcement must drop like a hammer and the laws must have enough teeth to actually make a difference and weed out the most foolish amongst us.
Similarly, I’d drastically increase enforcement on red light runners. Too many people get impatient and take liberties with red lights that they shouldn’t. In my town the problem is at epidemic levels and law enforcement still doesn’t do jack shit about the problem. There is no funding and no enforcement prioritization. I predict it won’t be long until a vehicle is t-boned or a pedestrian is flattened and innocent lives are irrevocably destroyed.
In my experience law enforcement is supposed to have a proactive component. I’ve heard a figure that says 43% of law enforcement should be proactive. (Our local police aren’t there yet.) But the way it seems to work is that this doesn’t happen unless there is some grant that funds overtime, which is fantastically probably the most inefficient way to prosecute things like traffic safety programs. And that grant money is typically narrowly restricted to very specific applications, like CIOT, DUII or pedestrian stings. Those who give out grant money don’t want local communities making their own prioritization decisions. So the money comes with strings attached.
CIOT, for example, is typically conducted with overtime paid for my “federal highway safety grant funding.” Where is the funding for red light enforcement programs, if there even is such a thing?
Why so much emphasis on CIOT? My personal theory is that it is based on some sort of “do-gooder complex.” Some apparently see it as their role to force people take care of themselves. Sounds like they have control issues to me. Perhaps they’ll also come up with a program to enforce restrictions on Texas contributions to world cuisine like deep-fried twinkies, deep-fried pork ribs, deep-fried cheesecake, deep-fried Coke, chicken fried bacon, deep-fried banana splits, deep-fried beer, and, of course, deep-fried butter.
Fuck that. Fund the traffic safety programs that prioritize the increased safety of innocent people. The innocent must be prioritized above the moronic!
Are you a moron? Do you have a death wish? I say fine and dandy. Feel free to take yourself out, hopefully before you’ve procreated and passed along your genes. We shouldn’t spend our time, money and resources trying to stop you.
Let’s concentrate on protecting the innocent instead. Let us prioritize the safety of the innocent above the safety of the stupid.