How Would Jesus Drive?

Don’t worry, I’ll explain the subject line later in the post.

Did you know that California has not had a day without a traffic fatality since September 12, 2000… that a traffic collision is reported every 59 seconds, and that one person is killed every 2h4m as a result of atraffic accident… injuries? try every 1m43s, and that for every person killed, there are 73 injured. That California accounted for 9.8% of the roadway fatalities in the US in 2003?

I didn’t before today. Today, I took a vacation day and attended the California Strategic Highway Safety Plan summit. This summit came about from the SAFETEA-LU legislation, which mandates that in order to receive the highway money allocated in the bill, California must have a plan to reduce fatalities to 1 fatality per 100 M Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT). Right now we’re at 1.30. I should note that Minnesota has a more lofty goal: Zero Fatalities.

The goal of the plan is to address traffic safety through the four “E”s: Enforcement, Education, Engineering, and Emergency Medical Services.

The opening of the summit was the usual “go off and do good” speaches from a variety of people, including representatives from CalTrans, the Office of Traffic Safety, the CHP, the DMV, the California Emergency Medical Services Authory, the County Engineers of California, and the Federal Highway Administration. I think the key thing I took out from this is that these fatalities number are not statistics: each fatality means that someone’s loved one is not coming home, and that some officer has to deliver the news to the family. In 2004, that happened over 4,000 times! That’s far too much.

The first breakout session I went to related to Impared Driving. Read drunk driving. There were lots of good ideas tossed out here. More education. More enforcement. More administrative penalties (losing licenses, vehicles), which are easier to get than criminal penalties. More education for officers on how to do field sobriety checks… and more of them. Harsher penalties for first time offenders. The statistics are staggering. During 2004, in accidents where alcohol was the primary reason, 829 people were killed, and 14,707 were injured. I know this personally; in 2001 (I may have the year wrong), gf_guruilla was hit by a drunk and is still recovering. It is also known that the average age of a DUI arrestee in 2004 was 33.2 years, and 83% are men. You can help here: If you have a party where booze is served, put the keys in a bowl before someone drinks, and have designated drivers. Friends are better alive.

Lunch was a speaker from MN DOT, who spoke about how MN is moving towards zero. They are doing things like raising speed limits to the engineered speed and enforcing them (so folks don’t drive 10 miles over); installing median barriers, and pushing for a mandatory seat belt law. Which brings up point two: Wear your seat belt!.

In the afternoon, I went to a breakout session on Curbing Agressive Driving. This is where the line “How Would Jesus Drive?” came from: one person suggested that ministers educate their congregations on proper driving. Another person suggested that since most agressive drivers were men, girlfriends and wives should take over driving duties. That wasn’t taken seriously. Other ideas were good, like toll-free numbers to report agressive drivers, increased education at all levels, from kindergarten (pedestrian and bikes) to the workplace; refresher classes for lower insurance rates; lengthening the time for graduated licenses and making it based on the number of years driving, not your age; getting a good definition of agressive driving and enforcing it; bringing back driver training and education in our schools, and having them teach defensive driving again. All sorts of real good ideas. This brings us to point three: It is better to get home safe than to get home five minutes early.

I found this a real good seminar; it certainly made me more aware of safety. I contributed lots of good ideas. I’ll note that the SHSP Draft is available for review; comments are due mid-March, and another draft will be out after that. Their goal is to have it completed by the end of May.