Every year or so the stories briefly get featured on the evening news like a blip on a gloomy green radar screen then are as quickly forgotten. Until the next study is released or, worse, some human bodies are asploded. Now that’s news.
Think of a list of professions where you’d really like people to be fully rested and alert. Airline pilots? Air traffic control? Doctors? Truck drivers?
Nice list. Congratulations. You just came up with a list of people that we fuck the most. Logical, right?
This week, again, the issue of employee fatigue was in the news. The FAA commissioned a study on air traffic controller fatigue. The results are none too surprising. Then the government fought for four years to keep the findings secret.
“Psst. Hey dude. I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse. You pay top dollar for me to conduct a study about how I’m fucking you over. Then I keep the results secret from you. Sounds like fun, right?”
What could possibly be going on here? Luckily I got a good night’s sleep.
Drive drunk? I feel that should be classified as “attempted murder.” Society, as usual, doesn’t agree with me. “No jail time for killing four pedestrians while driving with a BAC three times over the legal limit and not even old enough to drink.” That wee bit of difference of opinion on punishment makes me an outlier, I guess. Of course, that’s an extreme example, yet to my way of thinking, punishment in even garden variety DUII cases falls woefully short.
Cheat on your spouse? That should also be “attempted murder.” It’s all so simple to me. Pick up a deadly disease, bring it to your marital bed, and pay it forward with a potential disease that could theoretically kill the person who trusts you the most. There should be serious punishment for that. Far too often the only real punishment is going back to your regular life like nothing ever happened. Not much of a deterrent, eh?
In brief, my point is that without certain and meaningful consequence there is absolutely no limit on behavior. Period.
I believe a certain percentage of people just don’t give a shit. Perhaps they are motivated by drug addiction. Perhaps they are psychopaths and/or sociopaths and it’s what they do. Maybe they were brought into the world and damaged beyond repair by parents, environment and random events. Whatever the reason, it makes little difference in the end. The outcomes are similar. The themes of destruction and causing harm are remarkably consistent.
We tend to expect it from these folks. No big surprises there.
What about the rest of us? We’re good, right?
Hold on. Let’s not be too hasty.
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What does this mean to you? Not much. Hey, just like the local evening news! I think I’m onto something here.
Our top story tonight. Ominous fluffy clouds, pregnant with expectation (and moisture), have birthed innumerable litters of chubby drops that the WeatherTrac9000 computer calls “rain.” These drops are currently on a collision course with the place most of us live. The WeathTrac9000 calls that place the “ground.” We are currently projecting that these drops of mostly water will make the ground “wet.”
We start our exclusive News42 team coverage with Alex on remote location standing by a street. Alex?
…three seconds of awkward silence from Alex as he stares into the camera with a fake grin plastered on his face not realizing yet that he’s already on…
That’s right, Cassandra. Weather is coming to a street near you and it is pissed off. I’ll step aside to see if we can get a shot of this. You can clearly see drops of water hitting this street. And that is creating a dangerous situation that leaves some drivers out in the cold.
Earlier today this was the scene, with street surfaces wet. In one case, we found a car pulled over on the side of the road with its blinkers on. That driver was forced to sit and wait and hope that conditions would improve.
Even worse conditions may already be on the way. For that we go to Marko in the WeatherTrac9000 Weather Center. Marko?
That’s right, Alex. We are currently projecting alternating periods of light and dark at approx. 12 hour intervals until further notice. This means some rain may be less visible at certain times. Viewers are advised to remain on this channel for the latest updates as they become available.
For the intelligence-impaired here’s tonight’s Weather-Pick-Toe-Graph. This patented WeatherTrac9000 system helps those suffering from small brain syndrome to help prepare for the weather. Tonight’s picture: The Gorton’s Fishman in bright yellow slickers including full-frontal hoodie. We’re showing him holding a ship’s steering wheel but you don’t actually have to have one of your own.
For the rest of you I will now show lots of slides and animations and maps and use a lot meteorological words for eight full minutes of our 16-minute broadcast (not counting commercials).
“Grandpa, tell me the story again,” the little snot-nose whined.
The old man sighed. On the other hand, there was no one else around and he was bored. And he did love having an audience.
“It was a long, long time ago,” he said easily. By now the story was an old friend. It was like slipping his toes into a well worn pair of penny loafers with old leather comfortably broken in. Not at all like plastic, like Crocs, that all the snot-nosed sons of bitches called “shoes” these days.
“I think the year was 2013. Yeah, that was the last time it happened. The likes of which the world has never seen again.”
“Back then,” the old man continued, “I was still able to drive a car. The snot noses hadn’t taken away my license yet in the name of public safety. I think I must have been about 104.”
“So there I was, minding my business, driving through town. Yup, yup. Don’t interrupt, snot nose. This town. The very same town you and I still call home.”
“You know,” the old man paused, reminiscing, “back then it was still possible to hit a green light.” He shook his head. It was best not to think about such things.
“What’s a green light,” the kid interjected.
“I told ya, snot nose. Don’t interrupt yer elders. You want the story or not?”
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Have you been in a traffic accident? The first thing you should probably do is check to see if another vehicle was involved. If yes, you’ve probably still got some kind of a shot. If not, you probably just screwed up big time.
A traffic accident with only one vehicle tends to be a problem. These are known as Single-Vehicle Accidents or SVAs. In such an accident the implication is that, short of other evidence, the accident was caused by operator error. Insurance companies typically assign fault to the driver in SVAs, short of acts of God, flying objects, etc.
Blinded by the sun? Too bad. You’re still operating a motor vehicle with great capacity to kill. Hit a pothole and cause $5,000 damage to your ride? Yeah, the city sucks but it’s still on you. Like it or not, in most cases, an SVA is usually the driver’s fault.
When I hear about an SVA it always makes me think.
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Rather than go to the neighborhood grocery store down on the corner, I did something unusual (for me) and went downtown to give a different store a try. They have slightly better bagels.
If you know anything about my luck by now, you know that’s the exact moment when everything took a turn for the worse.
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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.