We all can see it. We are driving like hell is in the seat next to us and we are paying a price for it. I made a good living regulating the flow of traffic on our roads and highways and it pains me greatly to see what is happening out there today when folks take the wheel. Let’s end the old year, a tumultuous one at best, with a reminder that sloppiness behind the wheel exacts a measurable toll. To be more precise, it is killing around 100 people a day in the most progressive country on the face of the earth. What is happening?
In 1899, the first year statistics were reliability recorded, America lost a total of 26 people on our rough roads behind the wheels of unsophisticated iron, propelled by low horsepower engines. Contrast that with 1970, where we suffered through the deaths of 52,627 presumably good people. Engineering kicked in, enforcement tightened, and road money flowed like an Artesian well. Fatality rates continued to climb steadily. Despite more cars on the road, cheap gasoline and a wanderlust that is second nature to Americans, the fatality rates then began to drop annually from 1980 until 2020 when they started to rise again. In 2021, the first half of the year saw a 38% increase in deaths over the first 6 months of 2020, with 20,160 folks finding a porcelain slab table in a funeral home. Again, what in the hell has happened?
First, Covid. The movement of 5,000 pounds of steel on a hard surface DEMANDS regulation and education. When there is little likelihood that your outrageous driving behavior will result in a meeting with a traffic cop, you tend to push the envelope. A perfect storm exists when officers have little time to work traffic because of other duties and a dearth of said officers exists. Sticking your head in the widow of a violator’s car who might be a Covid carrier is not popular these days, never mind hauling the bad guys in the front seat of your cruiser while he coughs and gasps his way to jail. Next up, speed. Speed is still the primary driver of mechanized death, a simple matter of mass in motion, or physics. You do not have to be a mathematician to understand that a car at 1 MPH into a steel post will not be as devastating as that same car at 80 into the same post. I was in the business for 27 years and have never seen the flow of traffic as fast as it is today. Period. I also cannot remember the lack of common courtesy rising to the level seen today, added to the distractions provided by cell phones, food and total inattention, the second big contributor to accidents. You want to drop the fatality rate by 50%? Just drop one of the electronic devices into every car that records your driving behavior, forward an annual report to your insurer and base rates on your driving habits. I can guarantee results when you tamper with an errant driver’s wallet.
A final observation. The political climate in our country has given rise to an unprecedented level of anti-authoritarian behavior. As an example, the government is NOT telling me when or if I am going to take a vaccine. (I did take it) We don’t like the notion of anyone tampering with our “freedoms” what ever they may be. Traffic enforcement, effectively done, makes arrangements for the violator to discuss his preferences in regard to “big brother” with a judge, not at car side. Traffic enforcement is definitive in nature and has a tendency to temper foolish behavior and attitudes. Without it, we are simply narcissistic folks wandering about with little fear our behavior, when it strays, will be met with the contrary opinion of an officer.
Too many times, I have fished through the pockets of a dead person looking for some form of identification, with the vast majority of the circumstances revolving around a monumental mistake made behind the wheel. Children lying on a porcelain table will bring a tear to the eye of the most hardened officer. I drive today flabbergasted with the casual behavior of our unregulated generation of drivers. It is high time we re-emphasis the regulation of traffic. When will the price for ignoring this important consideration be too high? Hopefully soon…….
If you are not part of the solution, then you well my be a part of the problem. Resolve to be better behind the wheel this year. At some point you will be glad you did. I can guarantee it.
Happy New Year!
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