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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To me, there’s very little “uncertainty” about crosswalks.
You clearly don’t know who you’re driving over, so let me clue you in. I am not in danger, Skywalker. I am the danger. A guy puts the pedal to the metal and someone gets plowed and you think that of me? No. I am the one who stalks!
–Heisenberg Crosswalk, Braking Bad
In the local news of late there has been a lot of discussion about “dangerous crosswalks.” That got me thinking. What is it about the crosswalk itself that makes it dangerous?
The fact that it exists? That it leaps out and surprises pedestrians? That it has a concealed carry permit? That it lulls pedestrians to sleep with a false sense of security? “Come to me,” it whispers in the wind. “Tread upon me. I will protect you. I will keep you safe. You can trust me.”
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Transportation increases the odds of accidental fatalities. However, remaining stationary does not reduce the odds to zero.
–Tom B. Taker
In other words, getting from Point A to Point B can be inherently dangerous. Any method of transportation that moves your body through the physical universe increases the chances you’ll take it in the shorts. The moment you begin to move your odds of dying increase. This can take many forms. It may be a flight from Los Angeles to New York City. It might be your morning commute to work in your car. Or it could be as short of a journey as stepping into the bathtub. Or even just getting up out of your chair.
So you might think to yourself, “I’m not moving. I’m going to sit right here and remain safe.”
A nice thought. Except that death may still find you.
For example, you could be on the bed in your very own home when a sinkhole suddenly opens up and you’re just gone. Or, ripped from the headlines just yesterday, you could be standing in your home when the ceiling violently gives way from the impact of a jet aircraft. There are no reports of deaths on the ground in this latest incident, but a young boy did get nicked on his forehead. Come to think of it, the last time I wrote about this theory, I used the example of a jet aircraft engine landing on a house. As always I hate being right.
Being alive can be dangerous.
Maybe it would be a good idea to go for a walk, clear my head and think things over. (Hint: It’s not.)
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After three years of daily posting I was recently honored by WordPress who featured my article about China on their Freshly Pressed page. As a result of that freak accident I picked up a few new friends as subscribers. Welcome! I’m a Fresh Maker.
For all my friends, both freshly new and old/busted, today I will reveal arcane knowledge that will, if heeded, save your life. I can single-handedly make you remain a viable member of the elite group known as “still alive.”
Interested? Read on! And unlike some people, after I’ve saved your life my demands on your servitude will barely be noticeable. You won’t even know I’m here.
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This is part of the U.S. Soldier’s Creed, which actually says, in part:
“I will never leave a fallen comrade.”
Unfortunately, not all of us live by this creed. Observe…
Last night I was on my nightly commute home. My commute used to be only two miles one-way. Now it’s three miles. Which is more than enough for the assmonkeys* to turn out in spades.
I had driven a whole two blocks from work and was approaching the first traffic light of the drive. The light was green. That means it was my turn to go, and it also means that pedestrians were supposed to wait.
You see, I have this thing about pedestrians obeying signaling devices. It really burns me when they don’t. Especially when they take a leisurely stroll when it isn’t their turn and make cars with green lights have to wait. I fucking hate that! It burns me every single time.
I’m the kind of guy that waits for the walk signal. Always. That’s just the way I am. Even if the street is deserted as far as the eye can see. If only I had a nickel every time I stood there waiting while other pedestrians gave me a funny look, then blithely pressed on without me. Motherfuckers!
So here it was a mere two blocks into my commute and I was experiencing my first full blown incident of road rage of the evening. Shit, why did it take so long? Couldn’t the universe throw something at me a block earlier? Quit slacking, universe!
From the right came a couple of pedestrians, a man and a woman. I assumed they were a married couple. They were a little older than me and obviously together. They had a “don’t walk” signal because my light was green. The man strolled out into the street without a care in the world. He didn’t look left or right. He acted as if the universe was exclusively his.
Meanwhile, here I come, trying to catch the green light before it turns yellow. In other words, I’m accelerating.
The man strolled out about 10 feet into the intersection then finally seemed to realize where he was. “Wait a fucking moment. I think I’m in a street!” He stopped, froze in his tracks, looked in my direction, and then, quite comically, backtracked like a little scared rabbit.
Ha ha ha, motherfucker! This intersection is mine!
Meanwhile, he had left his wife behind. They were obviously not in agreement on the whole “let’s challenge a car to a duel” thing. While he strode out into the street, she stopped at the edge of the sidewalk, then went back to push the pedestrian button.
By now the man had retreated almost back to the sidewalk. He had stopped about three feet from the curb and remained standing defiantly on the asphalt. He was clearly perturbed that a car had dared to interrupt his jaywalking. It was like he was saying, “The line must be drawn here. This far, no further!”
Luckily I was going straight. If I had been turning right I would have run over his toes. Gladly, I might add.
After I passed, I checked my rear view mirror. That man had taken off again right behind me after I passed. And there was his wife, still dutifully waiting on the sidewalk.
The motherfucker was leaving her behind!
He reached the other side of the street and continued on down the sidewalk. He wasn’t going to wait for nobody, not even his wife.
Finally the light changed and the signal said “walk” and the woman could cross the street. She jogged all the way to catch up with her mate, then they finally continued on their way together.
You have my condolences, lady. Not only is your husband a criminal jaywalker, you’re married to a douchebag assmonkey, too.
* Thanks for the term, Write Snark! 🙂
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.
The streets were cold, dark and dreary. The skies completely overcast, gushing forth a slushy rain that was just on the verge of becoming snow. It was still dark out, that twilight time when day was scrabbling to establish a foothold but night was stubbornly refusing to let go.
I was at a stop sign waiting to cross the street. I checked for traffic to the right. Then left, then right again. The street was clear so I eased down on the accelerator and entered the intersection.
Something tickled the hairs on the back of my neck and caused me to look to the right. There, where only moments before the street had been empty, was a dark gray car, headlights off, barreling down in my direction.
Many questions crossed my mind in a very short period of time. “Why is he driving so fast? Where did he come from?” I realized the car must have been there but perfectly blended in, especially with his lights turned off. Somehow I had completely missed seeing the car and had pulled out right in front of him.
Time was up. I was vaguely aware of the skidding of his tires, in vain, on the wet asphalt and watched, in proverbial slow motion, as the car slid in approach to join up with mine. I only had time for one last thought before everything went dark for the very last time: “Fucking asshole!”
This little piece of fiction is inspired by actual events and actual assholes.
I still remember the incident above. It actually happened one dark morning on my way to work. I tend to look very carefully before crossing streets so I was mighty surprised by the magical appearance of a car rolling in out of the darkness and bearing down right at me. It scared the shit out of me.
The second response came a few seconds later. Why was this fucking asshole zooming through residential streets at a high rate of speed (much faster than the posted limit) and with his mother fucking headlights turned off? His car was effectively invisible. I had looked right at him yet seen nothing.
I’m not kidding. If you have the right conditions and the right color car, you might as well be a friggin’ stealth bomber. Super heroes and the military should be pursuing this technology.
People seem to forget that the act of transportation is a deadly one. For most of us driving around in our cars is so routine that we fail to give it the attention is deserves. These days “texting while driving” hogs most of the media spotlight but other things, like turning on your headlights when it is still dark out, are just as important. How many of us really concentrate on the act of driving? Personally I like to think about death the entire time I’m behind the wheel. It tends to keep me focused and on my toes. Fuck daydreaming, fiddling with the radio, cell phones, conversation, the kids in the back seat, etc. If something else needs my attention I’ll find a place to pull over.
Just the other day, on the highway right by my house, a grown adult person just a few years older than me was killed while trying to cross the street on foot. Perhaps he was trying to get his mail. A lot of people who used to live on rural roads seem to have attitude about that when that road turns into a fucking highway. Whatever. That’s just speculation on my part.
The press release from the police said pedestrian killed was dressed all in black. It was night. It was raining. The driver never even saw the fellow and was not cited by the police. This pedestrian forgot that the act of transportation, even while on foot, is a deadly business. Perhaps he assumed the driver would see him? If so, he assumed wrong. He won’t be making that mistake again anytime soon.
For some strange reason, people around here seemingly get off by not using their headlights. It’s the damnedest thing. I guess some of the small-minded think it is “cool” or something. “I’m too damn cool for headlights!” And you’ll see these cars with headlights off in all sorts of weather and times of day. And when I see them I mentally spit in their direction. Why the hell would you deliberately try to increase the odds of being in an accident? It makes absolutely no sense to me.
This morning I had just dropped off my wife at work when it happened again. I watched a dark sedan materialize right out of thin air and right in front of my very eyes. Dark conditions, dark car, rain coming down, poor visibility – and here is this son of a bitch driving with his lights off.
I momentarily had the urge to follow the bastard and show him the light, if you know what I mean. Instead, I merely shrugged and drove home as the opening paragraph to this post began to write itself…
I just don’t get it.