Gongol.com Archives: January 2012
Brian Gongol

January 26, 2012

Threats and Hazards "If it saves just one life..."
A letter to the editor in support of red-light traffic cameras in Cedar Rapids relies on the old canard that "If it saves just one life, then it's worth any price". But the problem here is that though we each value our own lives infinitely (because, of course, you can't take it with you), that equation is simply not true. We could have a world of infinite safety, in which every person is bubble-wrapped and we all travel at no speed greater than 5 miles per hour, but the trade-off for that level of security would be world in which nothing got done and in which we never experienced any thrills. In the case of red-light cameras, the trade-off appears -- at least on the surface -- to be between safety and surveillance. On that basis alone, we are obliged to very seriously consider whether we're willing to be surveilled at all times, even if we're abiding the law. (One might very likely think we are not.) But beyond that, the reality is that red-light cameras are no assurance of greater safety. They quite likely create more rear-end accidents (as people slam the brakes when lights turn yellow), even if they cut down on T-bone incidents. But further to the point, if the issue is really one of safety, isn't the solution to find engineering designs for intersections that make them more safe, rather than just introducing more Big Brother? Roundabouts prohibit T-bone accidents by design, and longer-duration yellow lights and longer gaps between the onset of red in one direction and green in the other can ensure that lapses in judgment don't rise to the level of causing accidents. And if the problem is with repeat offenders, shouldn't they individually lose their licenses? If the problem is with a particular intersection, shouldn't someone investigate what it is about the design of that intersection that causes so much danger?

News "Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?"
The head of local government in Scotland wants a referendum on that question sometime in 2014. It would throw into question Scotland's three centuries under British rule. Plenty of people in England seem not to be amused.

Humor and Good News "Moby Dick" typed on a roll of toilet paper
Yours for the bidding on eBay

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