Throwing money doesn’t solve safety problems

The government is merely a servant—merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn’t. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them.
—Mark Twain

By now you’ve heard of the recent tragedy of a girl having been hit and killed by an alleged drunk driver. (It’s the second fatality off South Meadows Parkway in less than a year.) If you’re a parent, the use of the terms “child” and “fatality” so close together puts a knot the size of the Black Rock in your stomach. Those terms used in conjunction are patently obscene.

Predictably, all the news reports had family and friends clamoring for “changes” in the crosswalk system there to prevent further tragedies from occurring. And like clockwork, the Reno City Council approved crossing lights to the tune of $400 large. (That’s $400,000.)

Of course, to get the correct answer, one must ask the correct question. For instance, would crosswalk lights have stopped a drunk driver?

And more importantly, what about all those other crosswalks so ingeniously engineered by painting white striping on the asphalt? Are they supposed to be enough to make your average driver aware that he or she has to yield to a pedestrian? Is that striping not enough to stop four lanes of 35-40 mph traffic for a lone pedestrian?

I, for one, almost creamed a guy (probably a tourist) who was trying to cross South Virginia Street at 10 p.m. in front of the Peppermill. He was obviously intoxicated and intelligently dressed in black. Had he not been wearing white tennis shoes, his skull would still be affixed to the grill of my Sherman Tank SUV. There are no lights there, just white striping and five lanes of traffic that beg someone to play in the street. Had I been a half-second off, there’d be one less tourist in town.

Of course, it’s this same thinking that has freeway entrance ramps doing double duty as freeway off-ramps. (For example, the U.S. 395 and Greg Street ramp or the Interstate 80 and Wells Avenue ramp.) What kind of bonehead imagines that having vehicles accelerating to merge onto the freeway while competing with vehicles braking to get off is competent engineering?

Conservative types like myself realize this is standard protocol for government. There is no accountability, and there is probably no changing it.

Yes, yes, the Reno City Council championed dealing with the unfortunate deaths of two young people by installing one set of lights at one crosswalk. Yippee. I’m impressed. Not.

So the question really becomes, how many more people have to die at how many more crosswalks before city officials and their equally incompetent employees start adequately designing this stuff or get shown the door?

If you need proof of this, one Reno Gazette-Journal report quoted Reno spokesperson Terri Hendry saying, “[That] area [South Meadows] has been under evaluation and studied by traffic engineers since 1994.” Also according to the RG-J, she said, “federal guidelines dictate the need for traffic lights, signs or extra lighting, and so far, the area does not come close to meeting any of those guidelines. Criteria for the guidelines include traffic amounts and how the traffic affects the intersections.”

Apparently “federal” guidelines dictate what the city of Reno does or doesn’t do relative to traffic safety.

Yeah, that makes perfect sense. Or perhaps not.