Cracking Down On Jaywalkers

As I was walking home last night, I saw a blurb on the news crawl on the facade of the Columbus Dispatch building about Columbus police cracking down on downtown area jaywalkers.  Oh, great, I thought: another questionable allocation of police resources to address a negligible problem when more pressing issues need attention.  It reminded me of an incident that occurred many years ago, in which a lawyer hot-footed it into our firm to avoid being ticketed for jaywalking by a policeman.

But when I read the Dispatch article on the effort, I saw that the effort is far more nuanced than the blurb indicated, and I actually support what the police are doing.

The underlying problem is the recent time change, which means that Columbus is plunged into darkness in the middle of the evening rush hour.  The statistics show that deaths from car-pedestrian collisions increase during the fall, so there is a real problem to be addressed.  And, according to the Dispatch report, the enforcement effort is both even-handed — police are looking for jaywalkers and for drivers who make illegal turns or fail to yield to pedestrians who have the right of way — and is designed to focus on reminding people of their legal obligations, by having yellow-jacketed motorcycle cops stationed at key downtown intersections to talk to pedestrians and look for drivers who don’t yield, and representatives of city organizations handing out leaflets about the traffic laws near bus stops.

As I’ve noted recently, if drivers are inattentive, being a pedestrian can be very dangerous.  And if Columbus police are going to target drivers who fail to yield, it’s only fair to cite pedestrians who fail to comply with traffic laws, too.  We’re all sharing the streets and crosswalks of downtown Columbus together.  (And while we’re at it, looking for cyclists who ignore the rules of the road would be a good idea, too.)

I always cross at crosswalks, anyway, and while I like to make good time on my daily journey to and from work I’ll gladly restrain myself from crossing too early in exchange for police efforts to remind drivers about keeping an eye out for the pedestrians among us.

Bumper Sticker People

I’ve never put a bumper sticker of any kind on my car.  I think they make your car look trashy as they inevitably fade and peel — and my car looks trashy enough without that extra assistance.

I also don’t understand the point of political and quasi-political bumper stickers.  Are they supposed to just make people who are like-minded feel better, because the bumper stickers show that others share their views and aren’t afraid to advertise that fact publicly?  Or, are they supposed to help wavering people make their final decision through the weight of views expressed on the bumpers that happen to be on that section of road at that time?

If there really are people so feeble-minded that their votes are swaying by bumper stickers, do they pay attention to the drivers of the cars that sport the sticker?  If a guy drives like a jackass and cuts me off so he can edge in to the turnoff at the last minute, and the last thing I see is his “Obama 2012” bumper sticker, I’m not exactly in the mood to adopt his political views as well-reasoned.

And what of the cars with multiple bumper stickers?  Isn’t there a mixed message issue there?  Which one am I supposed to read as it zooms by?

Of all the bumper stickers I’ve seen recently, the one that I find the most puzzling is the “Coexist” sticker on which the letters are replaced by different symbols.  Is the message that we should coexist?  If so, don’t the religions all coexist already, as evidenced by the fact that their symbols are sufficiently well-known to make it onto an insipid, mass-produced bumper sticker?  Or, is the message that we should coexist better — by, perhaps, not slaughtering or slandering people of different religious beliefs?  If it is the latter, do we really think that a drive-by glance at someone’s rear bumper is going to convert a religious bigot into a thoughtful proponent of tolerance?

By the way, do people with those “Coexist” bumper stickers on their cars ever get victimized by road rage incidents? If so, do they just shrug and point to their bumpers?  And is there any way to study whether “Coexist” drivers are targeted for road rage because of the stickers?

It seems like an awful lot is expected of that little blue sticker.  I’d rather leave my car as is.

Starting The Day Off With A Troubling Jam

Today I’m holding my breath about getting to work, because yesterday’s morning drive caused me to realize, once again, that many of my fellow commuters are dangerous lunatics.

Sometime early yesterday a tanker truck overturned near the intersection of Route 161 and I-270, two of the major roads in Columbus.  Both highways were closed in both directions for the entire morning rush hour.  As a result, thousands of cars that normally use those arteries had to find alternative routes, and the entire east side of Columbus quickly became a paralyzed mass of red-faced, frustrated drivers.  Every road heading in the direction of downtown was filled with cars inching along, bumper to bumper, going nowhere.

It’s amazing how quickly the veneer of civilization is ripped away when this kind of thing happens.  After a few minutes of delay and the horrifying sight of long lines of stationary cars, drivers get the sinking feeling that this is going to be bad — and then the inner savage appears.  Selfish drivers blithely block intersections as traffic lights change, infuriating everyone trying to get through the crossing.  Drivers recklessly weave in and out, change lanes to move forward a single car length, and abruptly make illegal U-turns.  Some people will drive on the berm, and other self-nominated traffic code enforcers try to block them from doing so.

You look at the well-dressed people in the stopped cars around you, gesturing angrily or beating their hands against the steering wheel, and you wonder whether they shouldn’t be wearing face paint and bearskins.