The Bay Bridge, Traffic Safety, and the Human Condition

A couple of stories tie together here today.

First off, the Sun’s resident totalitarian Michael Dresser wants to turn the Bay Bridge into Big Brother’s Rumpus Room:

That’s why there is nowhere in the state where the case is stronger for vigorous use of video technology to enforce the law. Not just to issue automated speeding tickets but also to identify other offenders who can be pulled over once they’re off the bridge. I’d like to see a defendant in District Court try to explain away video evidence of tailgating.

There’s also a strong argument that traffic violations on the authority’s bridges and tunnels deserve tougher sanctions. If fines are doubled in work zones, why not triple them on the Bay Bridge and other toll facilities? (The Harbor Tunnel, Fort McHenry Tunnel, Key Bridge, the U.S. 40 bridge over the Susquehanna and the U.S. 301 bridge over the Potomac. I’d exempt the toll section of Interstate 95 because it doesn’t raise the same issues.)

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It wouldn’t take long before folks absorbed the message that Maryland toll bridges and tunnels are someplace where you drive as if your mom were in the car.

Of course, what Dresser suggests is patently illegal under state law. And frankly, it’s a bit Pollyannaish too. Only a liberal would dare suggest that the presence of a camera is going to deter insane or criminal behavior. If they did, the areas around police cameras in Baltimore would be the safest places in Maryland. Why is that not so? Because cameras can only punish the act. They do not prevent the act itself and thus do nothing to protect the public safety, as liberals like to suggest.

Using technology to catch drivers on the Bay Bridge would be no different, and would probably serve only one purpose; revenue enhancement. We have see speed and red-light cameras across the country installed in places where they serve little purpose but to line the pockets of local government, to say nothing of the fact that they create traffic headaches and likely cause accidents. Of course, facts never stopped Dresser from promoting nonsense before…

While Dresser wants to baby us, an article in the Wilson Quarterly goes in a….different direction:

In the last few years, however, one traffic engineer did achieve a measure of global celebrity, known, if not exactly by name, then by his ideas. His name was Hans Monderman. The idea that made Monderman, who died of cancer in January at the age of 62, most famous is that traditional traffic safety ­infra­structure—­warning signs, traffic lights, metal railings, curbs, painted lines, speed bumps, and so ­on—­is not only often unnecessary, but can endanger those it is meant to protect.

As I drove with Monderman through the northern Dutch province of Friesland several years ago, he repeatedly pointed out offending traffic signs. “Do you really think that no one would perceive there is a bridge over there?” he might ask, about a sign warning that a bridge was ahead. “Why explain it?” He would follow with a characteristic maxim: “When you treat people like idiots, they’ll behave like idiots.

Emphasis mine….and read the whole thing. Because Monderman was right. The nanny state, in all of its forms, creates nothing but babies, people who cannot function without government oversight. Overregulation, overprotection dumbs us down. It’s why kids who used to ride their bikes without helmets in the middle of the road to play ball at a neighbors house stay inside because parents are afraid of getting sued for a cut sustained on their property and overprotective parents want to dress their kids up enough pads before getting on a bike to take part in a jousting event. Is it any wonder kids are sedentary and show no interest in fiddling with things, and no interest in being outside?

And that is the kind of logic that people like Dresser wants to apply to the highways, and people like Dresser want to apply to every situation. They want to over-regulate to the point where nobody is safe. Sure, Monderman’s principles on traffic control are revolutionary and perhaps a little too over the top. But are they really any different, as I noted before, from the laws of the Autobahn which has few regulations, but find those regulations strictly enforced? At the very least, Monderman’s ideas appeal to our basic principles that the government that governs best governs least, and idea subscribed to by the majority of averaged Americas.

Finally, as a tribute to Monderman and finger in the eye of Dresser, I heartily endorse this idea from Donald Sensing:

So it’s less polluting to drive than fly, right? And it appears that is is rapidly becoming just as quick to drive as fly on not only short-range flights, but increasingly on medium-range flights as well.

So here’s my global-warming-fighting plan: significantly increase the speed limits on the nation’s interstate highways. That will make driving rather than flying even more appealing, more financially attractive and less time consuming.

By “significantly increase” the speed limits, I mean to triple-digit speeds. The present limit in Tennessee in 70 mph. So let’s reset it to 100, minimum.

Here, here. A plan that fights global warming, a plan that provides for greater national security, and a plan that embraces Monderman’s idea for relatively unregulated roads. Quite Panglossian.

When can we sign up?


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