Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

6-8 Fewer traffic tie-ups please

60812 traffic
SANTA FE – Do you ever get irritated about traffic stoppages on our highways? I do. I often vow to write about them but then another topic always seems to win out when I sit down at my computer. This time, after experiencing three tie-ups in three days, the irritation has continued until I sit here now.
After many talks with state police officers, it is obvious they are often asked why it is necessary to tie up traffic for hours. And it is obvious they have many answers. The most frequently heard is that the case in point was a special circumstance. You know what that means. Every case is a special circumstance.
Trial lawyers also are a frequent excuse. We are told unless they thoroughly inspect every brake pad, every this and every that, trial lawyers will get them in court. But couldn't many of those inspections be done at the side of the road?
In big cities, you'll see wrecks pushed over to the side of the road. Evidently those police departments have learned that they will have many fender benders to investigate as a result of long backups so the goal is to keep traffic moving. Many of us have been through harrowing experiences when topping a hill and being confronted by a wall of cars a few feet away.
A good idea would be for police or a highway crew to place warning signs near the tops of every hill. You'll see warning signs at the side of the road advising of delays but it is long after traffic has started slowly moving again.
Police who aren't involved in an accident investigation often do show up at the scene. But the only activity in which I see them engaged is giving tickets to drivers who cross the median to go back the other direction.
They could be much more useful to the hundreds of people sitting in line if they would do something to help get traffic moving. In my younger years, I remember traffic being diverted through bar ditches, shoulders medians or frontage roads. No longer does any thought seem to be given to the hundreds, maybe thousands, of drivers being affected.
Another response from police representatives is that we wouldn't mind the wait if it were a loved one involved in an accident. A recent stoppage mentioned in the news said traffic was stopped for nine hours.
Think of the thousands of lives being affected by a stoppage of even one hour. After some bad experiences, we no longer allow for an hour's drive from Santa Fe to the Albuquerque airport. We allow three hours and have a leisurely meal after going through security if we aren't delayed along the way. Much of that time is sometimes used standing in line for TSA security screenings.
That is another beef. Screenings are becoming more and more invasive. And to what purpose? All they stop is maneuvers that have succeeded in the past. No security screening has ever stopped a terrorist. If one ever does, we will hear about it forever. Meanwhile, we leave our suitcases unlocked and let screeners in back rooms take what they want.
Police officer safety is another reason sometimes heard for stopping traffic. Maybe we should have highway crews investigate wrecks. They work only a few feet from speeding vehicles every day without stopping traffic.
This rant isn't meant to criticize front-line police officers. They do their job as they are told to do it. But somewhere up the line decisions are made that greatly inconvenience the public. Maybe those decisions are made by lawyers too.
If there are good reasons for stopping traffic for hours, an explanation to the public through all media sources would be very helpful.


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