Thursday, February 22, 2007

Deaths on our Roadways

Statistics for 2005 show 4100 pedestrian deaths on roadways, plus an additional 100,000 plus injured for mainly no other great cause than walking from one place to another. These figures would be close to 24,000 total deaths over the period of time since we were assaulted by terrorists on 9/11/01.

Almost weekly we can read in our local major paper of one, two, three or more highway deaths in one accident, or a total nationwide yearly average of around 41,000. That’s FORTY ONE THOUSAND EACH YEAR or TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY THOUSAND PLUS SINCE 9/11/01. Add another ONR MILLION, EIGHT HUNDRED INJURED SINCE 9/11/01.

We give our young people a few hours of individual driving lessons and turn them loose with vehicles: the most deadly of any legal weapons. Or, as radical environmentalist Tom Edwards, might say, “The most deadly weapons know to mankind.” If only the radical environmentalists would turn their attention to the greatest causes of death of our friends and neighbors, we could reduce these numbers drastically, and in a hurry.

Like most problems caused by humans, we do know the answers to the problem but do not have the fortitude AND COMMON SENSE to act.

How to act? Enforce the laws that protect pedestrians. Enforce the laws violated by pedestrians. If the behavior of a pedestrian causes injury to anyone including the pedestrian, have the wrongful behavior of the injured or dead pedestrian bear the majority of the cost

Ban all handheld telephones from being used by drivers while any vehicle is in motion.
Extend the training and testing of young people before they are permitted to drive by at least threefold. Increase safe driving requirements and show the grade received by each person of any age who receives a legal permit to drive and show this grade on their driver’s license so parents and judges can make a more accurate assessment of the ones a fault when assessing penalties. Increase driving violation fines dramatically to pay for the extra training and the hiring of thousands or more law enforcement officers and judges needed to enforce these laws. Pass laws to require those involved in drunken driving disasters so that the driver not only serves incarceration time but pays the full cost of arrest, conviction, legal proceedings and incarceration. .

Limit the number of teens in any vehicle being driven by a teenager.

Put blocks on speedometers assessing maximum speeds just like blocks on destructive lifestyle television programs that lure our young people into the risk of death by carelessness. Mandate this feature to all new vehicles built starting in 2009. We don’t want to create a dangerous cult of grieving hero worship for kids in high school who are killed as a result of reckless behavior on the roadways.

Holland and Belgium put cameras along the roadways that record the vehicle license plate of any speeders. The license numbers are larger than they are in the US, the easier to be photographed. Convicted violators are subject to suspensions and large fines where warranted. The results have been very rewarding and more people are enjoying the drive.

Crack down severely on driving while intoxicated by immediate withdrawal of the driving license, then commit drivers to alcohol or drug rehab at their expense. If the violation is severe enough, impound the vehicles just like the law does for those who deal drugs of destruction. For those who say they can’t hold a job without a car; say, “Too bad; you should have thought of that first.” Chances are they have been driving while inebriated for a long time; they just weren’t involved in an accident or caught.

Put up more crosswalks where street blocks are considered by pedestrians as being too long; then enforce the jaywalking laws with healthy fines. Of course, you will need more officers paid by the substantial fines. Jaywalking is not a problem, then how did 4100 pedestrians get killed in 2005?

For anybody paying lip service to sincere efforts to greatly reduce the number of deaths and injuries on our roadways, I suggest you stop your character assassinating comments about the current administration and stop making unqualified accusations and threats that undermine the 200,000 or more troops and support cadres now involved in efforts to bring some semblance of orderly government to the MidEast. Stop dishonoring the 3100 brave individuals killed in action and the thousands injured or maimed while at the same time ignoring the massive slaughter on our roadways.

I recently drove Hwy. 75 between Mt. Myers and Naples, Florida. The four lane highway is nicknamed Death Valley or Alley. Approximately 28 miles of Rt. 75 have skid marks every 20 feet or so where people traveling 85 miles an hour or more failed to make adjustments for slowed or stopped vehicles in front of them. My wife and I witnessed a terrible accident in which a car cart- wheeled numerous times thru the air before we lost sight of it. We were about 100 yards away from the accident going the opposite direction but we could see both the car and truck involved. We did not see how anyone could have survived at least in the car. We looked in the local paper the next day and found nothing. We learned that most bad accidents do not appear for the tourists to see, as this kind of news is bad publicity for Florida businesses.

I can also understand why lawmakers are afraid to enforce many existing laws or pass new laws that would save thousands of lives. They are afraid of not being elected, reelected or appointed. Public safety departments and the judicial system are under funded but billions of dollars can be raised by making the fines pay the additional costs of enforcement, conviction and even incarceration, when warranted. Lawmakers may as an excuse say they believe in the rights of an individual. So do I but not when I am at daily risk of being killed by the most deadly weapons on our roadways driven by impaired, untrained or unacceptable drivers. Or of killing a pedestrian who is ignoring the law and then probably spending a fortune to protect myself from some tort lawyer who demands an out of court settlement or face bankruptcy in defending myself from false charges.

I have always been a strong supporter of individual rights. However, this country must make sure you lose those rights when your actions kill and maim others. Many lawmakers are not afraid to pass all kinds of laws, many ridiculous to protect the individual rights of a few or many. What are they afraid to make judgments that would greatly reduce the largest “accidental” (and yes, some are really accidental) loss of life and limbs on the public roadways?

Some politicians and law enforcement management will say, “Ok, are you going to pay for this crackdown on the unnecessary loss of innocents?” My answer is, let those abusing the privileges granted them legally, pay the major part of the extra costs of the havoc they bring to other peoples lives including the bereaved. Raise the fines to pay for the extra costs needed to enforce existing laws and new laws needed to greatly reduce the carnage on our roadways. Greatly increased costs of enforcement of existing and new laws can be funded by greatly increased fines for those responsible for this ghastly carnage as a “pay as you kill or cause bodily harm to innocent people”.

If after all appropriate laws and greatly increased penalties are passed and enforced and individuals still want to risk the chance of killing only themselves or destroy their own property, they have the right to do so. When people say they can do whatever they want “because this is a free country” I don’t think they realize that true freedom comes with a lot of costs; cost that include personal responsibility.

When “free individuals” endanger or kill other people, we have laws that protect the innocent and we usually try to enforce them. We must enforce those laws on the books and add new laws to stop these “killing fields” on our roadways in the United States. These “killing fields” can become much smaller but only when we all, including those who attempt to lead us, become as concerned about these roadway deaths as we are about deaths of our security forces and support groups including contractors defending us from death and destruction from terrorist Muslims and other peoples and places of violence across the world.

The cost of all this havoc on our roadways is massive compared to the cost of supporting our security forces and their support teams in protecting our rights at home or abroad. One accident on a heavily traveled roadway can tie up thousands of people waiting for the wreckage to be cleared, put a tremendous demand on our law enforcement employees, our public legal staffs, our judges, our hospitals and emergency rooms, our doctors, increased insurance rates for safe drivers and the stress and anguish on all related to all parties involved in these disasters. These accidents put billions of dollars in the pockets attorneys trying to sort out the mess created by each “accident”.
I do understand real accidents happen and that we do need attorneys to settle disputes.

I’ve laid out the problem and solutions. I have personally driven over 1,600,000 miles in my lifetime without being involved in any accident deemed to be my fault. My greatest fear is to be stuck by another vehicle out of control but to date I have avoided all but one accident in which the other driver was given a ticket and but fortunately no one was injured. But I drive with a wary eye out for the out of control driver that too date has not yet caused bodily harm to me and only one of my nieces, killed many years ago at the age of 17 by a drunken driver.

I’d like some support for these facts and some pressure put on our lawmakers to react to this increasing terror on our roadways; greater even than crime when it comes of loss of innocent life.


Anonymous said...

rewind your scenario. The first time someone gets a ticket and goes to court, they either get a slap on the wrist or gets to mail in their fine. Then things get bigger with the next one and the next one until they are finally arrested for something to do with driving and get to plea bargain their way out of most of it. This should stop way back with the first ticket. No plea bargaining should be allowed and if the offenses reach more than three they should do mandatory time in jail. The courts are too crowded and the jails are over flowing but it is not working. We need to do something the first time someone gets a ticket for more than a parking meter violation.

Anonymous said...

Automatically limiting vehicle speed to the speed limit is posstible. Sweden has done experiments with Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA).

(As seen on Episode 101 of "Perils For Pedestrians".)

John Z Wetmore

ben said...

I agree that punishments for DUI need to be much more severe, but that's a no-brainer.

The biggest change I'd to see is less ticketing according to the 'speed limit' and more ticketing according to the 'jackass factor'. People who fail to signal their turns, weave in and out of traffic, and run reds are much more dangerous than the guy doing 15 over on an empty interstate in good weather.

Also, the selective enforcement of speed limits smacks of a police state. Pick a sane limit and then (here's the trick) actually enforce it!