Some time in August, I noticed some strange paint on the road attached to my driveway.
Markings on the road are strictly regulated, lest traffic control devices become confused and non-standard. Uniformity across regions enhances public safety.
These curious marks appeared about every one hundred feet from the north end of FM 1722 to the bridge across Lake Clark. Surveying stakes and cryptic messages appeared at various spots. Something was afoot!
So one day, I spotted a survey crew doing what surveyors do, and I stopped to ask them what the project was. They said that it was the first step for adding shoulders to the roadway. Well now!
I took their pictures with their permission, but alas, those photos are trapped on my crashed hard drive. (I mention this not to whine, but for the opportunity to use "alas" in a sentence.)
So I ask myself, "Self, why would they want to put an improved shoulder on this road?"
One purpose of an improved shoulder is to protect the roadbed from eroding. An extra two to three feet of pavement beyond the normal travel lane will reduce the frequency of requiring repairs. Could this be the reason shoulders are being considered for this road?
As you can see, there is evidence that a shoulder would be helpful on this road to preserve the integrity of the travel lanes.
In conversation with one of my neighbors, they reckoned it was because of the four or five drive-off wrecks that occurred in the past few years. I know for certain that two of them were a result of DUI and another involved a teenage driver. There has been considerable evidence of automobiles leaving the roadway without wrecking as well.
So the theory they propose is that shoulders are needed to make it easier for incompetent drivers to stay out of the ditches. I hope this is not the motivation to add shoulder to this road. We need to get incompetent drivers off the road, not further along it. We need to expect that automobiles be steered with at least enough skill that the vehicle stays within its lane. It is expensive and wrong to accommodate the incompetent.
As a society, we have the wrong attitude about near-misses. When we drop a tire off the edge of the road, when we just miss side-swiping another vehicle, when we inadvertently swerve into the oncoming lane, these should be warning flags. We should see them as a bright red sign that we have a skill deficit that needs to be addressed.
Also, we ought to be ashamed.
We should pride ourselves in the skillful and safe handling of an automobile.
We should scorn those around us who fail to demonstrate such skill. We should despise those who fail in their duty to exercises due care. Those who have poor driving ability and poor judgment, why do we tolerate it? If we make the roads safer for them, will the roads be safer for us?
An awful lot of people have died this year in automobile wrecks. More than an awful lot of people have been injured in automobile wrecks. The amount of property damage inflicted by automobile wrecks is greater still.
We have tried to make our roads idiot proof. How high must the cost be before we admit that idea is a failure?
We need to look in a mirror. We need to prize superior driving ability in ourselves. We need to stop seeking a hardware solution (Safer roads, cars and devices.) for a software problem. (That stuff between the ears.) We need to have the courage to face the ugly truth: It is not the roads that are dangerous, it is us.
New Mexico's Lost Cause
4 weeks ago