Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Thanks to the MANY who have made our roads safer.

Traffic fatalities are at an all time low. That's great news. I am grateful for the efforts of those who have worked hard to make our roads safer and, yes, counted among them are the men and women of law enforcement. But, let's not exaggerate their contributions, especially when doing so tends to suggest that more aggressive enforcement of traffic laws is the one and only solution to the insurmountable problem presented by the inherent dangerousness of millions of large one to two ton vessels of steel and glass whooshing by each other at high rates of speed with soft-shelled humans inside. Keep in mind that more aggressive enforcement of laws leads us further and further into a police state where our privacy rapidly erodes. Losing sight of, and otherwise foresaking, the most cherished values of this great land is an insidious problem that rivals traffic fatalities. The idea that, in the name of further reducing traffic fatalities, we should look toward aggressive enforcement of traffic laws and checkpoints as the only solution to the problem of traffic fatalities is a tragedy unto itself.

Yes, law enforcement officers face risks and are paid relatively little for the challenging and vital nature of their work. No question about it. However, let's not forget the countless others who work hard to reduce traffic fatalities. A spokesperson for the CHP, Daniel Barba, perhaps without intending to do so, completely disregarded the important efforts of the auto industry for making safer cars, the traffic engineers for designing safer roads, the caltrans workers for building and clearing those roads, the EMS personnel for providing triage, the Firefighters for their vital work, the members of the medical profession for their contributions, the tow truck drivers for clearing disabled vehicles, and the many common carriers (such as cab drivers) for offering alternatives to driving. All of these folks deserve some of the credit for reduced traffic fatalties, if not a good deal of it. Nevertheless, the CHP seems quite willing to claim all of the credit where it states that seatbelt usage, speeding, and DUI are THE 3 leading factors resulting in traffic fatalities, and that they and they alone have an impact on the reduced instances of these dangerous behaviors. It is without question that law enforcement serves to deter dangerous behaviors by their ongoing enforcement efforts, and their visibility on the roadways. Their education campaigns are likely beneficial as well. And it may very well be that more of these activities will further reduce traffic fatalities. What concerns me, and hopefully concerns you, is that mindless support of aggressive law enforcement diminishes our freedom; the very freedom that hundreds of thousands of Americans have died on the battlefield to defend.

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