Monday, May 14, 2007

How many people have to die?

That’s how the letter, email, or phone call normally starts. The correspondent or caller goes on to tell me about people ignoring the no parking zones around the elementary school his child attends, or the unfathomable speeding on the street she lives on, or the incredible frequency with which drivers are ignoring the red light at the intersection he travels through.

Who is parking poorly around the elementary school at dismissal time, speeding like a demon in the residential neighborhood, and blowing through the red light a full two seconds after it changed?

You—or at least people just like you. Want to do something about aggressive driving? Start in your own driver’s seat.

Those lead-footed motorists blasting up:

Fletcher Ave.
S. Coddington Av.
Holmes Park Rd.
Touzlain Blvd.
Glynoaks Dr.
Beaver Creek Rd.
Sea Mountain Rd.
Tipperary Trail
Briarpark Dr.
Hazelwood Dr.
Fill in the blank_____________

are generally not intruders from Omaha. People from all over the city are not cutting through Blackstone Road to get to WalMart anymore. The speeders are, most often, your neighbors, their kids, and yes, even you. The same is true of the nincompoops who seem to think it’s their right to park anywhere they want to pick up junior after school so he doesn’t get shin splints walking six blocks, and also true of the latte-sipping, cell-phone dialing, lane-straddling drivers who seem to believe that a red light is a suggestion: ordinary people driving badly.

I don’t know what the solution is, but enforcement alone does not seem to stop it. If it did, the 105,643 official citations and warning citations for traffic violations issued last year by the Lincoln Police Department would seemingly have had a more dramatic effect. Think about that number, by the way. Pretty impressive for a city of 241,000 I’d say. Maybe enforcement helps hold it in check, though—I’d hate to see what it would be like if our enforcement effort was less vigorous.

Before anyone starts, rest assured not a dime of the fine goes to the police department or to the City of Lincoln. It goes to the school district, a requirement embedded in the State Constitution.

I had a call from the director of a major institution in our fair City a while back. He had spotted the very hardworking veteran Officer Dave Goehring running radar on Old Cheney Road. After Old Cheney was widened between Highway 2 and 70th Street, it instantly became a speedway. It is on Dave's beat, and I admire proactive police work. I had proudly noticed him running radar from time to time, snuggled back on Blackforest Road with an excellent view of the westbound flow. It would be a little too late for a 70 MPH driver to slow down before Dave had already measured the speed. The director-of-the-large-institution chided me because an officer was running a speed trap two or three times a week. I think it surprised him a little bit when I told him, “It’s our job to catch speeders, and I will not apologize for doing so effectively.”

One evening last week, I was headed home. I was on my cellphone (Bluetooth headset plugged in right ear, thank you) talking with Capt. Bob Wilhelm about some crises or another. Southbound on 9th Street, at about Washington, I glanced to my right to see the driver of a white pickup brushing his teeth. I reported this to Capt. Wilhelm. He advised me to roll up my passenger-side window in the event the man with great oral hygiene needed to expectorate.


Anonymous said...

As everyone knows there are a lot of drivers on the street that have no insurance and many that have no drivers license. I wonder what percentage of the careless drivers fall into that category. Most speeders, red light runners and other careless drivers that I see seem to be in their early to late teens. I have recently bought a high definition 30 Gb Sony video camera. It is very small and fits very well right on my dash with absolutely no obstruction to my view in anyway. There is not software at this time to edit high-definition video. However, if I set it on standard format I can go in the software and cut-and-paste and create a highlight DVD of the most amazing careless drivers in Lincoln and all the red light runners, near T-bones, near accidents because a reckless lane changes and pedestrians that are nearly run over in downtown Lincoln. It's only a matter of time until my candid camera catches an accident right in front of me, or worse yet a pedestrian getting hit. Be my pleasure to send a law office business card, and a text introduction to what my video shows. receives many license plate numbers that I note often. Soon, they are to start a submit your video similar to what the chief has as a link on his blog today. If I look back in the past year I can count a half dozen accidents that happened 100 yards or less in front of my vehicle. The most amusing video I have yet are of drunk drivers. Be my pleasure to film a drunk driver, contact the authorities, and later mail a copy, of the drunk driver's talents. It probably would not be admissible in court, but that's the chance you take when you drink and drive. So someday, somewhere, sometime, someone might come up to you and say smile your on...
Jim J.

Tom Casady said...

Jim J. : Cool video camera, I'm jealous. But please do not add "Video Editing" to the list of things people do while driving.

P.S. Get a Gorillapod for that bad boy video cam. Love mine.

Anonymous said...

Well Chief its been one week and I have my first car pedestian accident video. It was May 17 at 1545 Hrs at 10th and K Street.

Anonymous said...

How kind of Capt. Wilhelm to suggest that you roll up your window to avoid the expectorant in the air. Hopefully the drivers fresh breath will have paid off when he got to where he was going. You owe Capt. Wilhelm a big thanks as he is always thinking of the other guy!