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Category Archives: Driving

Texting BAAAD, LAW GOOOD! SMASH

A while back I wrote about the texting ban and how little I thought about it.  It turns out I didn’t have to wait long for an answer to my original question about effectiveness of the law and decreasing accidents while increasing safety.

One, two, three.

If they see more than 10 taps, police assume the driver is sending a text message, according to Lisiecki, who heads the North Huntingdon department.It’s unscientific, but it’s just one method police have found to determine if a driver is violating the state’s 8-month-old ban on texting while driving, a law many officers say is ineffective and nearly impossible to enforce.

“We’re still seeing the same distracted drivers out there that are texting,” Lisiecki said. “All the driver has to say is, ‘I was punching in a phone number.’ It’s tough to enforce.”
http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20121112/NEWS03/121119802/pennsylvania-police-say-texting-ban-for-drivers-hard-to-enforce#full_story

And there is the answer, the law just does not work.  I have addressed this before but the reasons still stay the same.  In addition, it is sort of the flavor of the day as we see more and more pushes to control what those in charge cannot control.

On the other hand, do they…

Of equal importance, he (Rep. Joe Markosek) said, is educating the public about the hazards of cell phone use behind the wheel (the bill contains just such a provision) because “this is a behavioral issue and we can’t really legislate that.”
http://blogs.mcall.com/capitol_ideas/2012/09/western-pa-lawmaker-tries-again-on-cell-phone-ban-for-drivers.html

Then again…

LaHood told a group of doctors, advocates and government officials in San Antonio that the problem of accidents connected to cell phone use is a “national epidemic.”  The National Transportation safety Administration reported 3,000 traffic deaths attributed to distracted driving last year, many blamed on cell phone use.

He said he was not too concerned about people who eat or apply makeup while driving because “not everyone does that,” Reuters reported.

“But everyone has a cell phone and too many of us think it is OK to talk on our phones while we are driving,” the secretary was quoted as saying.
http://blogs.ajc.com/business-beat/2012/04/27/u-s-phoning-while-driving-ban-urged/

sarcasm/ It is quite amazing to see all the fast food chains close up their drive through because no one was using them anymore. /sarcasm

Every time I tackle this subject I like to peruse opinion and fact to see what has changed.  I don’t consider myself an expert in the field but one who spent enough time living it to understand more than the average driver.  What amazes me is how those we trust to make laws to protect us, rush to a conclusion to satisfy other issues then the cause at hand.  A good indication that the problem has not been solved is that the law cannot be enforced.

Again, for me it is not an issue of laws being bad.  It is one of when a problem is being tackled, that time is taken to explore and solve the core root of the issue.  If we deem an issue of public safety so important as driving, why don’t we have carefully crafted laws that make sure the root issues are addressed.  Instead, we have a system of poorly crafted mandates that tell the public to do certain things that only serve as band-aids.  Moreover, that is not to say that band-aids don’t serve a purpose, but when the band-aid can’t stay in place and crumbles under pressure, the band-aid has failed.

Yes, you will have some government figure trot out and quote numbers of people who have been cited under the anti-texting law, but how many people were let go when push came to shove.  In addition, how many accidents were prevented, even better the question is how much did accidents rise due to this law.

The public should not be a guinea pig for experimentation, especially when we have the hyperbole of life at stake.

FOR THE CHILDREN…

You can take the driver away from the cell phone, but you can’t take the risky behavior away from the driver. That is the conclusion of a new study, which finds that people who talk on their phones while driving may already be unsafe drivers who are nearly as prone to crash with or without the device. The findings may explain why laws banning cell phone use in motor vehicles have had little impact on accident rates.- http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/08/why-cell-phone-bans-dont-work.html

Now when this issue came up again for me, I did not simply want to rant again about the subject.  Therefore, it is time to present my solutions to the issue of driving safety.

Driving should be like College English – No one gets an A

The minute you tell someone they are doing great, they stop trying.  The government message of driving slow or the speed limit equates safety needs to go.  I have addressed this before, but it bears repeating.  As humans once we, feel we have obtained, think we have made it to the top spot we stop.  This truth bears out in life in so many areas.  In a career the minute you have done it all, you want to stop and move on.  Yet the odd thing is we do not apply this logic to driving.  Instead, we have a system that tells drivers that once they achieve the goal of getting a license their training is done.  And then to further compound the issue the system tells the public that simply doing a few things right, gives you a passing grade.

Take for the example the issue of driving the speed limit.  As I pointed out before, the common thought of safety means that one should go the same or below ( <= ) to be the safest.  The problem is the list of variables that surrounds the process of driving.  Variables that people have less control over then they think.  Moreover, in doing that one thing right does not ever mean you will be successful.  Yet we keep pushing the logic on doing one thing right, which in turns lulls people into a false sense of security.

Instead, we should be pushing drivers to think about the process of driving as a whole and not select areas that fit the message of the moment.

This brings up the perplexing issue of laws.

Uniform Law of the visual kind

The one thing that bothered me the most about driving truck was that no matter what I did I was always wrong.  Now this may sound weird coming from me, especially after reading the last section.  However, the truth is the problem I had, was having to know Federal, State and Local laws when it came to driving commercially.   Moreover, the more I drove from state to state; I became aware of how parts of the driving regulations were not enforced with safety in mind.

Ohio comes to mind…

It is simple, when you are talking about a visual activity like driving; designing laws without that aspect in mind is foolhardy at worst.  It seems many times traveling on stretches of roads that the speed limit can go up and down for no good reason.  It is simple, a driver should be able to look out the window of their vehicle and be able to tell the speed limit by view, along with other factors.  More perplexing is that most states have speed limits for areas without signage based on surroundings.  Yet repeatedly I am reminded that the reason governance of a road changes is simply the result of jurisdiction and not for safety.

In addition, that would be why the current system is not contusive to safety.  When it comes to driving there should be one rule of law and not the fragmented system we have now.  Instead of a fragmented set of DOTs, have one Federal DOT that governs all the state DOTs.  That is have one set of laws that govern the roads.  One set of guidelines for setting rules for road signage, layout and design.  Moreover, one rule of law that governs all types of vehicles that wish to use the roads, from cars, trucks to bicycles.

Either that or make drivers obtain license endorsements for the states they wish to travel through or border.  That is if you want to travel from PA to NJ with a PA License, you must have a NJ endorsement on your license proving you know the rules of that state.

This naturally leads to the next suggestion –

Ban the Revenue Quest

Safety is not about revenue, when you make the roads safer revenue goes down.  It is not a hard equation, the more drivers in compliance with law the less people are breaking laws.  Therefore, revenue, fines and penalties, comes down, and insurance premiums drop, body shops make less money as people have less and less accidents.  Not as many police will be needed for enforcement.  And yet this is a bad thing as it would seem.

Revenue and safety goals are hard to put side by side because the two have a hard time existing together.  In fact, to increase revenue off traffic fines you have push people to make bad decisions.  For example, a common speed trap is decreasing a speed limit by 10 miles per hour.  Therefore, a 55 will become 45.  In of itself this is not a bad thing, what is bad is not warning or guiding the driver towards this change, so they can react accordingly.  Nevertheless, many times I have come across stretches of roads where the speed limit will drop with no warning.  If the idea of speed limits is safety, what end does it serve to drop a speed limit with no warning?  In fact, the very purpose of signage in driving is to warn or guide drivers of features of the road they cannot see.  It is to serve as note for the driver to get ready and prepare.  If you take out the time to prepare then you are not serving safety.

In addition, I know there will be those quick to say a fine is about punishment but let us take into account what punishment means.  Punishment, in terms of law, is meant to be discouragement and guidance towards doing what society has deemed the right thing to do.  If a fine is deemed to be a way of deterring a wrong behavior why is the punishment not applied equally?  This is not about class warfare, but the question is still very valid: If I make $300 a week and you fine me $150 for a ticket you are disciplining me in a very disproportionate manner to a person who makes $1000 a week.

Why is the punishment scale not scalable, in terms of fine, to administer equal punishment to perpetrators?

Beyond that, we have to ask the question why the systems first way to resolve bad behavior is monetary and not education.  Now I know the quick response will be that we have a system in place, which is points, but does this really work?

In addition, I ask the question being, as some offenses don’t carry points, or allow drivers to negotiate away the points when going to court.  If you want safety then the first step should be education, meaning all forms of punishment should apply the point system without reprieve.  Meaning all traffic violations should carry some point punishment that cannot be negotiated away.

Moreover, this begs the question…

Privilege vs. Right

And here is where the system runs into problems.  Driving is a necessary part of life for people who live outside the city.  Yet our current system does not seem to do any kind of job addressing this issue.

In fact, when the issue comes up we see it mostly brought up with younger drivers.  In addition, as with the issue of my first change, treating every driver the same is the issue.  If someone cannot drive to standards we deem necessary in society, then why do we differentiate by age?  In the last couple of years, we have seen more and more legislation, especially in Pennsylvania, aimed at younger drivers.  Yet we have seen none that address other driver ages, especially those who are older.

This brings up the question of: Should we have laws that do not address all drivers the same way?  If someone cannot drive, does age really play a role in punishment?  We don’t have laws that say people must drive, as it is deemed a privilege, yet we treat younger drivers as if they are the age group who need more training.  Would not it make more sense to treat everyone who drives the same?  How does someone who starts to drive at 36 differ from one who drives at 18?  Both are inexperienced, need training, and need to prove the same set of criteria to receive a license.  How can it be justified that we automatically become ready for anything at the magical age of 18, but before then we are not ready.  Moreover, if that is the case, then do we need to let those under 18, the privilege to drive?  Does reaching an adult age, automatically become a gauge of better judgment?

Further to the point, if we deem those under a certain age are not experienced and apply a set of criteria to their ability to drive, why we do not apply a similar set of criteria to drivers as they age.  Is the assumption the system takes that older drivers make better sound decisions correct?

Again, one set of standards that deem whom is road worthy and who is not, not a bureaucracy that is a myriad of paperwork that says those born under the moon on the second term of the wolf young must have more training and those who do not and are exempt.

This brings me to the final point:

We need one set way to drive

One thing I could never understand driving professionally was how I had to learn a set or rules that seemed to pertain to no one else.  Now on the surface of it, that makes sense.  If I am transporting hazardous materials I get that, I should be trained and certified to do so. That way if I run into problems I know how to handle all possible known problems.  However, why if I need a CDL to drive a bigger vehicle with more weight and have endorsements for things such as air brakes, why then are these requirements not required for all?

I did a quick search for the guidelines governing Recreational Vehicles and found this page with a grid of all the states laws with links.

Does this make any sense at all?

Again, if the issue is safety, how does not having one set of laws to govern drivers not make sense?  Yes I will acknowledge that there are always needs for variances in laws where necessary.  However, when it comes to safety is the fragmented system we have really serving that goal?

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Posted by on November 16, 2012 in Driving, Law

 

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I am the King of Siam, Yes I Am

Funny how life takes you on a journey, and one day to the next you never know where that journey will lead you.  I am back to share my insight into the joys of modern day living.

A while back, I brought up the subject of texting and then law making.  As I explained there, one of the problems we face with lawmakers is the fact that those who pass laws are fallible themselves and we must be slow to passing laws.  Not only does society have the problem of leadership fallibility but a question of leadership itself.  In addition, when you add the quick nature modern society is changing as it adjusts to current changes, you have a recipe for problems to arise.

California was one of the first to pass an anti-texting law.  And as usual people applauded the move and many guaranteed lives would be saved.  However, a funny thing happened, the laws did not work.  Not only did they not work, they actually increased accidents.

Researchers examined data from California, Louisiana, Minnesota and Washington in the months preceding and following the anti-texting implementation. In three of the four states, the number of accidents caused by distracted driving actually increased. And this correlation may be blamed on drivers between the ages of 18 and 24 — 45 percent of this demographic admit to texting in spite of the bans. And in all four states, the number of crashes involving these young drivers increased.
http://smallbusiness.aol.com/2010/09/29/are-anti-texting-laws-causing-more-accidents/

As I have said many times before the problem is not one caused by a single distraction, but is caused by drivers who are not properly trained to drive with distractions.  Moreover, what leaves this writer scratching his head is why we needed a law, when we have distracted driving laws on the book.  Nevertheless, more states followed and more whack-a-mole laws became statutes.  Moreover, as I pointed out before the laws were thinly thought out legislation that did not think of changing technology.  In fact, the legislation seem to only look at the negatives of technology versus their positives.  As pointed out before, safety innovations in automobiles coming from technology are going to save more than kill.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise when this news item popped up on my horizon yesterday, but sadly, it did.

Starting Jan. 1, cops will allow you to send, dictate and listen to text messages while driving, but only if you’re using a separate, voice-activated device that’s connected to your phone — something like a headset or Bluetooth earpiece or a program inside your car like OnStar. Just turn on the device, say “text mom” and talk out the message. If your mom is driving, her earpiece will blurt out the message.
http://www.siliconvalley.com/latest-headlines/ci_21073057/new-law-allows-hands-free-texting-while-driving

Add to that message this amazing revelation:

On Friday, after much head-scratching and acknowledging nobody in (Assemblyman) Miller’s office owns a Siri-equipped iPhone 4S, the assemblyman’s aides concluded it will still be illegal to use your actual phone to text behind the wheel — even by speaking the message directly into Siri.

Add to that:

“The larger trend is that these laws get passed pretty quickly or by people who don’t understand the technology,” said Glenn Abel, whose Hands-Free Info website has been tracking distracted driving laws around the nation for five years. “And they’re finding that once they get these laws into the field, there are problems, so they come back and try to fine-tune everything.”

Again, we have lawmakers who keep showing repeatedly their lack of understanding of what they are legislating.  Again, I have to ask why distracted driving laws are not enough to handle the issue.  While I will agree that texting is a dangerous pursuit while driving, so is any other distraction behind the wheel.  Moreover, that brings up the question of why we have laws that nitpick one negative over another.  This kind of lawmaking only further takes us away from safety instead of towards it.  This kind of thinking from lawmakers allows drivers to say to themselves “I’m safe brushing my teeth, reading a book as long as I’m not speeding or texting.”

 

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2012 in Driving, Law

 

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Velocipede Jurisprudence

This is going to be another tricky subject to tackle.  Another article, which will leave readers, split opinion wise right down the middle.  I have hope that I can look at both sides equally, but the truth is I am as biased as anyone else is.  The subject today is the new bicycle law in Pennsylvania.  I have to admit I put this subject off for a while because I needed to do some thinking on the subject.  And even after that time it is still not an easy subject to tackle.

I will come right out and say it, the law is short sighted and wrong.  There are many reasons why.  The first issue I have with the law is the crossing of the solid yellow line.  The problem does not lie in the allowing people to cross the yellow line, but the fact that it is not allowed in common place.  That is any time the driver encounters a road blockage of some sort, from a slow driver flashing yellows to road debris.  Now before I get the “you’re wrong, you can,” let us look at the law because I did:

§ 3301. Driving on right side of roadway.
(a) General rule.–Upon all roadways of sufficient width, a
vehicle shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway
except as follows:
(1) When overtaking and passing another vehicle
proceeding in the same direction where permitted by the rules
governing such movement.
(2) When an obstruction exists making it necessary to
drive to the left of the center of the roadway, provided the
driver yields the right-of-way to all vehicles traveling in
the proper direction upon the unobstructed portion of the
roadway within such distance as to constitute a hazard.
(3) When and where official traffic-control devices are
in place designating a lane or lanes to the left side of the
center of the roadway for the movement indicated by the
devices.
(4) Upon a roadway restricted to one-way traffic.
(5) When making a left turn as provided in sections 3322
(relating to vehicle turning left) and 3331 (relating to
required position and method of turning).
(b) Vehicle proceeding at less than normal speed.–Upon all
roadways any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of
traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then
existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available
for traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb
or edge of the roadway, except when overtaking and passing
another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when
preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into an alley,
private road or driveway. This subsection does not apply to a
driver who must necessarily drive in a lane other than the
right-hand lane to continue on his intended route.


§ 3307. No-passing zones.
(a) Establishment and marking.–The department and local
authorities may determine those portions of any highway under
their respective jurisdictions where overtaking and passing or
driving on the left side of the roadway would be especially
hazardous and shall by appropriate signs or markings on the
roadway indicate the beginning and end of such zones and when
the signs or markings are in place and clearly visible to an
ordinarily observant person every driver of a vehicle shall obey
the directions of the signs or markings. Signs shall be placed
to indicate the beginning and end of each no-passing zone.
(b) Compliance by drivers.–Where signs and markings are in
place to define a no-passing zone as set forth in subsection
(a), no driver shall at any time drive on the left side of the
roadway roadway within the no-passing zone or on the left side of any
pavement striping designed to mark a no-passing zone throughout
its length.
(c) Application of section.–This section does not apply
under the conditions described in section 3301(a)(2) and (5)
(relating to driving on right side of roadway).

Moreover, here comes in the problem of interpretation, it is just that interpretation.  As I was told in truck training one should take the strictest interpretation to be safe, that is if the road is saying don’t pass, then don’t pass.  Hence why when a solid yellow line means in law “No Passing” you do not pass unless it is necessary.  That is the problem, the new bicycle law creates a contradiction in the law, giving one vehicle precedence over the other yet at the same says they are the same on the road, yet they are not.

In addition, that is one of the bigger issues coming from this law, it points out how loosely our laws are written when it comes to safety on the road.  One of the issues I am a big advocate for is one set of laws for the road period.  I never understood why if safety is such an issue why the same laws cannot apply from state to state.  I know this will upset the state’s rights people but when it comes to driving, especially interstate, what good does it do to have multiple interpretations of what is safe?  In addition, what good does the flavors of law really push?  Even those who do not travel interstate run into the problem when it comes to something simple as cell phone usage across county lines.

But I digress.

Back to the law of bicycles I have to wonder if the people who wrote this really understand the nightmare they foisted on the public.  I fully understand that people use bicycles to get around and it is not very safe for them at times.  However, as pointed out before putting two vehicles at war is never a good idea.  This is split-speed limits all over again; putting two vehicles that are at different speed differentials on the road creates a safety nightmare.  We already have laws that prohibit a bicyclist from highways and freeways because simply put the speed differential is too dangerous of the bicyclist.  At the same point, there are other roadways where it is simply not safe for bicyclist to travel.  Roadways where there is barely enough room for two motor vehicles should be off limits to bicyclists as they are simply not safe enough for them.

That leads to the question if bicycles are the same as motor vehicles then why do we not license those who want to ride their bicycle on the road.  If we require a motor license for people to drive cars because we want everyone to prove they know the laws of the road, why is this not required for bicyclists?  Moreover, if they are not required a license for driving on the road why should they have the advantage of a roadway designed for those who are tested?

Laws should always be weighed and debated because humans are fallible, we do not always get it right.  The problem with legislation like the bicycle one in question, and the texting law, is do we have the right leadership in place who really understand the complexity of a law.  As with texting, this seems to be a knee jerk reaction to a bigger problem.  And the law doesn’t do anything to solve the root of the issue, that being that putting two vehicles with varying speeds at conflict with each other.  In addition, when solving an issue we need to look at the root of the problem and solve that.  Looking at that will lead to a proper solution guaranteed not to be popular.  But then again is it not what we elect representatives in government to do?

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Driving, Law

 

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Slowness of the Mind

I promise to get back to Games for the Weekend soon, but it’s time to deal with another subject I started this blog for.  One of the reasons I decided to write this blog was the desire to delve into subject more than paragraph quick comments on newspaper websites.  One of the subjects I wanted to deal with that of driving.  Being a former truck driver, driving issues are a subject I still keep a keen eye on.  One of the issues that recently came up was New Hanover Township and its decision to lower, nearly, all speed limits on their roads by five miles per hour (mph.)  My first reaction was a roll of my eyes, then concern for the apparent lack of concern for safety over other concerns.

I guarantee this is going to be one of the articles that evenly divides people.  I will not even pretend to believe I can change minds.  If you think, lower speed limits are a key to safety then no study or fact based argument will change that.  I have read too many opinions and comments to bear this truth out to be proven true.  Nevertheless, this does not mean I am not going to put my opinion out there with the rest.

Beginnings

I am going to take this back to where I came from, that is I was of the camp that the person who followed the law and stayed around or under speed limits the safer you were.  My mindset, as those in the lower speed camp are, was that the more you paid attention the safer you were.  In addition, just as many others, my opinion changed over time.  For me it changed once I became a truck driver.  The biggest wake-up call for me was the realization that through training to become a professional driver, I was really being given a course in safe driving.  Yes, I was being trained to drive the truck, skills like shifting and backing a trailer, but the biggest part of my training was how to be a safe driver (more on this later.)

What I took away from my time learning how to drive professionally and doing it was the safest way to drive was to pay attention to everything, constantly assessing your environment and following the signs that are on the road.  For example, if a speed limit sign says 35 MPH and you decide to deviate from that path you are changing other driver’s expectations of what you are doing.  Whether people agree with a sign or not, they still see and comprehend an expectation that other drivers will follow that sign’s advice.  Now it is not as simple as this, but as you might be able to see how speeding from slow driving creates two different conditions for drivers.

Laws and those who make them

One of the things I heard constantly while driving, from radio programs to other drivers, was how lower speed limits actually was causing fatalities.  It was something I didn’t necessarily believe at first.  I am not one to believe in conspiracies without facts, and what I was hearing seemed to be more conspiracy then fact based.  The notion was study after study done was showing a correlation between decreased accidents and less emphasize on speed limit control.  Simply put lower speed limits did not save lives, it actually put more lives in danger.  I asked my normal questions and then sought out answers.

One of the first things I wanted to find out was if these studies existed, studies that questioned the nature of safety versus lowering of speed limits.   Moreover, I got my answer rather quickly from a simple Internet search.

The data clearly show that lowering posted speed limits did not reduce vehicle speeds or accidents. Also, lowering speed limits well below the 86th percentile speed did not increase speeds and accidents. Conversely, raising the posted speed limits did not increase speeds and accidents. The majority of motorist did not drive 5 to 10 mi/h (8 to 16 km/h) above the posted speed limit when speed limits were raised, nor did they reduce their speed by 5 or 10 mi/h (8 to 16 km/h) when speed limits were lowered.

Because there were few changes in the speed distribution, it is not surprising that the overall effects of speed limit changes on accidents were minor. It is interesting to note that compliance decreased when speed limits were lowered and accidents tended to increase. Conversely, when compliance improved after speed limits are raised, accidents tended to decrease.
http://www.ibiblio.org/rdu/sl-irrel.html

I also wanted to know then if these studies were true and ignored, why were they ignored.  Again a simple search of the Internet produced results.

Today, the overwhelming bulk of NHTSA’s funding is spent on programs that do not increase highway safety. Instead, the agency has become a classic Washington bureaucratic horror story, actively working to the detriment of the public in order to serve only itself and its special-interest constituency.
http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:pvjzxDOkYIAJ:nj.npri.org/nj99/03/fedagency.htm+http://www.nj.npri.org/nj99/03/fedagency.htm&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a

Why

It’s easy to just say it’s a revenue issue but I rather deal with why lowering speeds will never work.  This comes from many thousands of miles of driving and observations I have made over my years.

Speed limit signs are a guideline.  If there is a whiteout on the road for example I may have to lower my speed to meet conditions.  If I am passing a driver, I may have to speed up.  If the flow of traffic is going faster or slower, trying to control that flow is not by speeding or slowing is not an answer.

Now here is where the problem comes in, when people go too fast or too slow they are changing the normal from what is expected.  A speeding driver going too fast is ignoring what the road is telling him and may/may not know what dangers lay ahead.  Even when they do know a road, dynamic factors (other drivers, animals, etc.) will cause changes to the environment that a drive usually isn’t prepared for.  This is why the racing of vehicles is done on a closed controlled course.  Even drag racing is done on controlled courses (to an extent.)

The same is true of people who drive slower, and this is the bigger fallacy.  When a person drives under the speed limit, they too are changing the environment and expectations of other drivers.  Where it becomes a fallacy is while the speeder knows they are being unsafe, the slower driver thinks they are being safe.  The natural question people would ask is why is going slow unsafe then.

The answer is mufti-faceted; first, drivers going slower tend to over think the driving process and put focus on one part of their driving, speed.  Think of why drunk drivers normally survive crashes, when they crash their brain is not thinking of what it is doing and is not concentrating on bracing for impact.  Therefore, when impact does occur, the body naturally reacts apart from thought, saving the driver in most cases.  Now this goes into training (more on that later) but like any skill you need to practice before you actually do.  Once you practice something, enough you then do not put much thought into the process, even though your mind is thinking about the process.  In any given job, schooling we all have encountered a point in time where over-thinking hurt us.  Think of the advice teachers gave you in school, the first answer is usually the right one.  When we second-guess ourselves, we put in jeopardy that which we know.  The same goes for driving; when a drive puts emphasis on one piece of the puzzle, they cannot see the whole picture.

Second, driving is also control of your vehicle and person, and not control of environment.  People who speed and go slower then conditions are trying to control those around them instead of themselves.  It always amazes me the person who thinks they are being courteous by leaving another car out by stopping a line of cars behind them.  As if, it is courteous to choose to be nice to one over others.   By being “courteous” the person is trying to control everyone else and deem what is right for them to do, when the law calls for them to actually not stop traffic, but go.

Finally, it is again the mindset.  Drivers who travel slower put themselves into a false safety mindset.  I have been behind many slow drivers who think driving five mph below the speed limit is safe.  These same drivers tend to forget turn signals and have no problem cutting other drivers off.  Again, the mind is lulled into a false sense of security.  As society has deemed speed to mean death, going slow has been equated to being safer, thus the person going slower can relax because they are being “safer.”

I can’t drive 35…

One of the other points that has to be made is that of the purpose of laws.  As a friend pointed to me eons ago, a lock only keeps lawful people out, that is those with respect for laws will obey them.  The same is true for laws that do not make sense to people.  If the Government were to be pass a law that stated wearing green was illegal, do you think people would follow it?  The same is true for road laws.  Many studies find the same thing, speed limits should be set to the limits of the road and what people tend to drive on those roads.  This is why the 85th percentile is used, at least recommended, for speed limits.  Because it takes into consideration how drivers drive and what the limits of the road are.  When you deviate from this you cause problems.  Think of a 100 mile stretch of flat highway and a speed limit of 25 MPH, I would bet you no one would follow the speed limit sign.

It is why split speed limits are dangerous.  Luckily, to my knowledge, Pennsylvania does not have split-speed limit roads.  Split speed limits are speed limits that require trucks to drive slower (usually ten MPH slower) then cars.  Instead of creating a safer road, they actually have increased accidents, as cars and trucks were put at war trying to obey the speed limits.  This is why when people who speed or drive slower create havoc on the roadways also, as they are creating artificial split speed limit zones.  The same thing that I saw in Ohio happens in these cases; drivers will get impatient and try to go around slower moving vehicles.   In addition, those moving around slower vehicles do not always do their passing in a safe manner.

Tougher Standards

The solutions to these problems are too costly.  I am in favor of toughening the standards for the Class C license to that of a Class A license.  That is raising the standard to become a licensed driver to those of truck drivers, and that means raising the standard for Class A licenses for truck drivers.  This means training and practicing through certified instructors.  In addition, this would mean a mandatory time behind the wheel minimum before a driver could even take the test.  This would also mean also setting standards for when a driver needs to be retested would be tied to age, accidents and other factors.  As those who have CDLs know alcohol is pretty much eliminated from the picture when it comes to driving, this is also a standard I support for Class C drivers.

The problem with doing these changes would be that of complaint of cost.  It would also be a complaint of time.  Lastly, it would be a complaint of the loss of jobs, as with a better-trained driving society police would not be as needed on the roadways.  Moreover, with better-trained drivers, revenue from tickets would be decreased.

My question has always been is if we want to really make the roadways a safer place and stop fatalities on the highway, why are these factors even a question when it comes to life we say we hold so dearly?

Sigh…

Back to New Hanover Township and their lowering of speed limits for safety reasons.  I found it ironic a few weeks into the change, a couple of accidents had occurred.  I’ll leave the conclusions to your own mind.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2012 in Driving

 

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Will you stop touching me!

Today is a little off topic for me, but will bode well for helping to understand future topics.  I’m just going to come out and say it: We need to ban the words “For the sake of the children…”  Ladies and Gentlemen of the court, this is your new four letter word of the century and one that needs to go and be stricken from our language.  Maybe it’s harsh, maybe I’m insensitive and maybe it’s the straw man but humor me please.

This subject has been circling my head for a while, it’s not like last night this frame of mind came to me.  Two weeks the subject hit me watching a documentary and yesterday reading an article on speed cameras pushed me to this (more on those later.)  I have to admit I am biding my time on other subjects I want to talk about, not only because they are serious, matter to me and are important.  However, mainly because I realize that jumping right into those subjects without some background will not serve to help anyone understand my viewpoint.  It’s not that other subjects are of less importance, but when you scale things you see the difference.  I also don’t want to repeat myself.  This kind of article serves as a primer, and a base, to where later articles will lead.

So let us begin.

I really like something about message boards and comment sections that I do not like over instant messaging and texting..  That is the time between postings.  Texting, instant messaging is one of those things where, at least for me, you feel the inclination to quick fire back. I’m not saying you can’t troll message boards and comments but they lend to a more “think before you speak” type vibe.  For some reason the disability to hit enter and automatically send a message versus clicking a “post” button, makes me pause before sending my thoughts out.  It’s this kind of “pause before acting” that I try to apply to a lot of my life.

We all (I hope) have heard the “can’t see the forest from the trees” line.  It’s a simple understanding, when you are emotionally attached you can’t see the whole picture.  In addition, literally, if you spent a long time in a forest you would stop noticing the trees.  Let’s also state the obvious also, we are all biased.  I remember having this conversation in college with a friend over the subject of history.  All history books come down to the authors’ viewpoint.  No matter how much they do research, they will still insert their view intentionally or subconsciously.  And this is no matter how much research is done, or how many facts are gathered.  I’m biased, and I will always admit that.  This is why I try to step back and think before I act, get advice from an impartial party and sleep on thoughts.

I had read about, and seemingly berated with, the documentary Food, Inc.  Yes, this is the documentary I mentioned earlier.  The documentary is about the industry of producing food in America, and as a warning, is not a pretty one.  After seeing it pop up in so many articles, I finally watched it.  I am the type of person that is willing to give anything a chance.  I also like hearing both sides of an argument.  Moreover, to get this out of the way: While it did open my eyes in certain aspects, it never really shocked me.  There was two things, other than the obvious health issues, that stuck out for me.

Fair Warning: Politics ahead.

First, the issue I like to call the “It’s not fair” syndrome.  I found that some of the arguments tended to go into the territory of envy for what others had.  Sometimes I am left to wonder what it would be like if the “shoe was on the other foot.”  There were times when it seemed that the arguments put forth by interviewees boiled down to wanting to be the top dog.  I know some will say I missed the point, but I’m not fully throwing their viewpoint away.  They have good, valid points that are not outweighed by this, but it’s something you have to keep in mind.  The weight of their points is offset by their bias and agenda.  And these are things you have to weigh, and judge when listening or watching someone in terms of a persuasive argument.

The other thing that stood out to me was Kevin’s Law.  Not because of the name, but because of the name (sorry I had to do that.)  For me the problem did not lay in the law itself, but the name.  I have no problem with someone pushing for changes based on personal experience.  However, where are the trees?

For those that need the background Kevin’s Law is a law that would give the US Department of Agriculture power to shut down plants that produce contaminated meat.  It’s name Kevin’s Law because of the boy, Kevin Kowalcyk, who died from e-coli poisoning.

Call me insensitive, or uncaring, but is there a good reason for having a law passed in anyone’s name?  Again, where are the trees?   This is an issue for me because we have too many laws, too many boogeyman arguments based on invisible straw men.  In addition, when you put emotion into the equation of trying to pass law, so much more can be accomplished away from attachment.  Passion is needed, no doubt, but when you are emotionally attached to a personal tragedy, the good that can be accomplished can be overshadowed by personal victory.   This is where laws can be undercut from doing the best they can, for the betterment of all, instead of being narrow focused.

Looking at traffic safety solutions for example; How many times is a stop sign erected because of an accident?  If your goal is to save lives what good is accomplished by making a two way stop sign, a four way one, when the original need for the four way was someone running a stop sign.  The root cause of the accident was not the lack of stop signs, it was the lack of ability on part of the drivers in the this case.  Stop signs will not stop another accident from happening, and when one more accident happens the cry will be for a stop light.  And this still doesn’t address what really causes the accidents.  But because the appeal of one mother crying over a lost child is great, this society seems to throw reason to the wind.  We rather have the illusion of safety, versus the cost and hardship of real change.  Instead of addressing root causes, we rather calm one set of parents over the many.

A real life example of this is happening with the Rt 73 and 662 intersection in Oley, PA.   Most of the accidents come from driver pulling from 662 onto 73.  The solution for PennDot was stop signs.  The real problem lies in the design of the intersection and how 662 basically merges with 73.  The design of the road offers the illusion of merging to drivers of 662 who use the view coming to the intersection as a guide to see if they can beat a driver on 73 to the “merge” point.  The solution is to make a dead end of 662 into 73, but because this is a costly, and a possible inconvenience to residents, solution, it never comes up as a solution.

Moreover, coming around to the original point, how many times are these laws made with the thought of children?  Yesterday I read articles on the state of speed cameras in Chicago and the whole “think of the children” came into play.  Rahm Emanuel wants new speed cameras.

A completely hypothetical politician was being heckled by angry taxpayers. And they dared ask rude questions, like why he wasted all their tax dollars on fat contracts to his pals.

So he decided to flee. Unfortunately, he was surrounded. Then he saw a first-grader in the crowd. He grabbed the child and used her as a shield, holding her before him to ward off angry voters, shrieking, “We must save this child! Help me save this child!” as he sprinted to his car.
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/ct-met-kass-0314-20120314,0,966912,full.column

I love that quote, but further down facts come into play:

“While we’re speaking, Diamond Robinson, who was hit by a car near a school … they’re actually having her funeral,” Emanuel said in February. “That is a reminder of what we’re talking about today and the full price and consequences of what we’re talking about today.”

But Diamond was hit on a weekend. Emanuel’s new law restricts the cameras near schools to weekdays.
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/ct-met-kass-0314-20120314,0,966912,full.column

And as another article points out these cameras have little effect:

Denied the city’s research, the Tribune performed its own analysis using city traffic data provided to the federal government and came to a very different and less dramatic conclusion.

Instead of the 60 percent reduction the mayor touted, the Tribune’s analysis of accidents for the same locations revealed a nearly 26 percent reduction — one that mirrored a broader accident trend in the city and across the nation. The difference? The city said fatalities dropped from 53 to 21 in the targeted zones, but the federal statistics showed the before-and-after numbers were 47 and 35.
http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-03-14/news/ct-met-speed-cameras-statistics-20120314_1_red-light-cameras-emanuel-administration-traffic-deaths

For all the talk of saving mythical children, we have to step back and ask some simple questions.  First, as I stated earlier, “It’s not fair” is the person coming from a smokescreen position.  That is their argument really for something other then what they are saying.  Second, is the straw man out in full play?    In terms of the speed cameras the first question is yes which I‘ll leave to you to draw your own conclusions.  The second question is answered by yes, if a child used as an example for why we need something died when the new law wouldn’t have helped, how would the law have saved the life of this child in question?

Finally, we have to stand back and look for the trees and balance the points out.  Even if we do not agree with the facts personally, can we still tip the balance in favor of the argument put forth?

So would you join with me and ban the words “For the sake of the children…” fallacy.  After all it’s for the children…

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2012 in Driving

 

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I see a mole and I whack it…

I have to admit I’m late to the game on a lot of things.  I read things, get a twinge about something I’m reading and push it to the side.  Sometimes I’ll have a knee-jerk response about a subject, but it never fails that I often take the ball and run with it.  That is doing some research and looking at the facts right away.  If something really bothers me I figure then I’ll give it a good look over.  I am lazy; is there no other way to say it?  But when something bothers me, it really bothers me.  There are times I read something, get a weird feeling (sort of deja vu) knowing something is wrong with what I’m looking.  But my brain can’t connect the dots.  That thought will bug me until I satisfy my brain and actually find out what it’s trying to point out.  You could say I suffer from Homeritis Simpsoniash.

Well it happened again this week.

What the law does

  • The law prohibits as a primary offense any driver from using an Interactive Wireless Communication Device (IWCD) to send, read or write a text-based communication while his or her vehicle is in motion.
  • Defines an IWCD as a wireless phone, personal digital assistant, smart phone, portable or mobile computer or similar devices that can be used for texting, instant messaging, emailing or browsing the Internet.
  • Defines a text-based communication as a text message, instant message, email or other written communication composed or received on an IWCD.
  • Institutes a $50 fine for convictions under this section.
  • Makes clear that this law supersedes and preempts any local ordinances restricting the use of interactive wireless devices by drivers.

The penalty is a summary offense. The law does not authorize the seizure of an IWCD.
The law goes into effect March 8, 2012, 120 calendar days from Nov. 9, 2011.

The texting ban does NOT include the use of a GPS device, a system or device that is physically or electronically integrated into the vehicle, or a communications device that is affixed to a mass transit vehicle, bus or school bus.
http://www.dot.state.pa.us/Internet/pdnews.nsf/antiTextingLaw?readForm

I first read it on various news sites, and something twinged in me.  My knee-jerk was DOA, the law that is.  Even reading about the law being proposed a while back without these facts my initial reaction was the same.  We have a legislature, ignoring case study, facts and knee jerk reacting to a problem.  The proverbial “Whack-a-Mole” legislation.  That is legislation that doesn’t serve to fix a specific problem but appease the wheels that squeak the most. 

Don’t get what I mean, let me send you to my brother Frank Example:

“Thank you Kevin, see I have this dog who likes to bark all the time, and I don’t like the barking.  So every time he barks I throw a treat.  He stops for a while but he still barks, so I throw him another treat.  I really hope I have the time and money to keep this up.”

Get it?

Back to the law, while I had that knee-jerk reaction of DOA I didn’t know the why.  This is how my brain works, it points out the flaws and I have to do the leg-work.  So I slept on the info and then came back to it and it the pieces came together for me.  Simply put because of the wording of the law we have a law that will never work, and will never solve the problem it addresses.  It’s half-baked so to say, and too late behind the times to matter.

Let’s start with the intent, to stop a form of distracted driving proved dangerous.  Yes that’s right, I agree with those facts.  Texting while driving has been proven as dangerous as drunk driving.  Now here’s the but, the laws already in place are not working.  The laws are in fact increasing accidents.  One of the reasons I’ve read is the fact that people who text are now hiding the phones, which can dramatically increase the risks.  Also the enforcement and fines are having no effect, with fewer police out on the road today enforcement is harder.

The intent is good, the implementation is just half-baked and wrong.

There are many problems with the implementation.  How does a police officer know you are texting?  It’s going to be a guess on the officer’s part and I for one don’t want Judge Dredds on the street.

Radnor Police Sergeant Christopher Flanagan says that’s because talking on a cell phone while driving is still legal, “So people will tell you that they are dialing a number, checking the phone or whatever else. So, the officer is going to have to interpret the entire situation and make a recommendation based on their expertise.”
http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2012/03/06/suburban-law-enforcement-officials-concerned-about-enforcing-texting-ban/

The bigger problem is the complete ignorance of our lawmakers to technology.  This is why I pointed out before that it’s not okay for people in charge not to know how the internet works, in this case it’s technology.  I can see a point for having a person outside of the “forest” who can look at a “whole” picture but when you don’t have people advising them on facts then there is no “whole” picture to see.  Everyone under this law is guilty right now, under the many interpretations I can find in that law, and I’m sure lawyers will have a field day with the swiss cheese.

The law never takes into consideration automation.  I can automate my phone send text messages based on GPS positioning.  A simple “Hey Honey I’M HOME!” is now illegal under this law, even though I never touched the phone.  I can have my phone read my messages to me, then dictate to it a message in response through voice.  I’m guilty under this law.  Waze is now illegal, it sends messages to other drivers of congestion.  These for the most part are hands free uses of my phone that are now illegal, and as pointed out can be done without my interaction with the phone.

The other problem is the possibility of cars being the source of illegality under this law.  Because of how poorly it is written some things cars do could be considered now illegal.  Depending on your interpretation of texting according to this law the car simply telling me a speed limit or popping up a message on the dash could be considered illegal.  I could be wrong but the law covers integrated GPS as legal but says nothing of the other systems integrated into the car.

Again going back to ignorance legislators are showing little knowledge of the future and therefore making technology that is being meant for safety illegal.  Check this out:

You may say it’s a stretch to say this would be illegal.  But it’s in how you define communication and how IWCD in the law is incorporating all forms of computing in essence.  I mean how does the law deal with the new cars from Ford?

Ford said his firm’s current crop of hi-tech cars were capable of utilizing offboard “cloud computing” to expand their abilities, performing tasks like directing drivers to the nearest coffee shops, checking their health and keeping tabs on their daily diary.
http://edition.cnn.com/2012/02/27/tech/mobile/ford-mobile-technology/index.html

One way to solve the law would be to define the devices more specifically.  Or better yet scrap these laws because studies have shown they don’t work and actually increase accidents.

And don’t even get me started with how it exempts certain vehicles and is not applied equally across all driving fields.

“They’re focusing on a single manifestation of distracted driving and banning it. This ignores the endless sources of distraction and relies on banning one source or another to solve the whole problem.”
http://www.iihs.org/news/rss/pr092810.html

Again going back to that study, the bigger point is made.  We have legislators never looking to solve the root of the problem, at least passage of these laws is suggesting that.  It’s almost as if they never want to solve the problems, instead having election day messages or passing “laws” to get election votes.  As passing this kind of law ensures other laws will need to be passed, because again the root problem is never addressed.

I was a truck driver for a while.  Driving professionally opens up your eyes to a lot of things.  And one of the things I had to deal was with the distraction the truck itself presented.  Don’t understand look:

Truck Dashboard

And that’s a bare minimum tractor dashboard.  Mine had a few more switches.  What I was taught was the seven second rule to monitoring my driving world.  That is every seven seconds I should be able to scan my mirrors and gauges from left to right, right to left.  I would have to in seven seconds have to identify any problems on the road.  Another training tool was never to lock eyes with anything on the road.  That is if you think another driver on the road is a problem, just staring at them is not going to help you.  Another retired driver taught me to always find an out when I’m driving.  An out being a way of not putting anyone or myself in danger even with imminent threat.  This and more I would have to be constantly updating in my head as I drove.

What I learned from training and advice from other drivers was that everything in my vehicle and outside of it was a distraction.  What I really was being taught was how to handle the distractions before me.  Everything in a vehicle, no matter how many wheels and axles, is a tool and a distraction at the same time.  The gauges help people know things like speed, but if one were to simply stare at their speed they would crash.  Looking at the road poses the same problem, a red light is a good sign you need to brake but if you had looked ahead and seen brake lights you would have had a better warning.  Everything on the road is a tool to help you, but can be a distraction in the same breath if you weren’t trained in how to read the tools and how to use them.

And that’s the real problem we have before us.  While many will go around complaining we need solutions, those squeaky wheels, they really don’t want the real solutions.  Too many of us want the band aid.  Look at this law, there are many out there applauding the legislature, not even understanding the dangers this kind of law will bring. One of the reasons we never get real solutions to these problems is simply put the real solution costs us too much.

Think about distracted driving for instance.  To solve distracted driving the real solution is better training, which in turn would cost new drivers more money and time to become proper drivers.  It would also cost jobs, as you start truly decreasing accidents and have better trained drivers on the road you wouldn’t need as many police officers paroling.  Revenue from enforcement would also start to go down.  And legislatures would not need to pass as many laws, being that well thought out legislation that address root causes would need very few updates.  As it is, this law will become obsolete the second this generation of technology is dead.  Good laws would have thought of those things up front.

I’m saving this for another article, but I have seen too many times in my short life where we simply do not do things for the sake of safety when it comes to driving.  There are so many other factors that seem to come before the word safety that I sometimes can’t see where safety is even a factor sometimes in these laws.  When you have clear cut evidence that a law is going to not work the way you intended and you still push for it how are you serving the public’s best interest as a lawmaker?

I would like to put a guarantee on accidents going up in the next year, but I know better.  Time will tell if I’m right, but in the case of lowering speed limits in New Hanover accidents are already going up, which just happens to be another subject I’m going to tackle soon.

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2012 in Driving, Law

 

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