Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 19, 2000

Lee Dresselhaus / L’Observateur / July 19, 2000

So’..I have a message for all those drivers out there who think that theirschedule is more important than their lives and safety of those who are forced to share the roads with them.

Red means “STOP,” stupid.

Now, get this. It isn’t rocket science, so it’s not a concept that’s reallyhard to grasp, especially since a chimp could get a driver’s license these days. A high IQ is not required to operate that one-ton projectile we strapourselves into every day. In fact, sometimes I don’t think any IQ at all isrequired. Driver’s license testing is designed so that someone with a flatline EEG can pass. The rules of the road are presented in basic fourth-grade language from the nice folks at the DMV, so it shouldn’t be beyond the realm of reason that people should be able to grasp this simple concept: Go on GREEN.

Slow and prepare to stop when the light turns YELLOW.

And when that light turns red, STOP! For Pete’s sake, Monkey Boy, what’s so tough about that? Just stop when the light turns red! But they don’t stop, and it’s become an incredible, pervasive problem. Justtake a look around next time you get in your car for that trip to the store. Ican almost promise you that you cannot EVER get on the street without seeing at least one idiot blatantly blow through a red light. And I’m nottalking about those who squeak through just as the light goes from yellow to red. That’s bad enough because they’re still pushing it a bit. I’m talkingabout the ones who blast right on through that intersection well after their side of the light tells them to stop and your side says that you can safely proceed.

I must admit, though, I was wrong about one aspect of this issue. I thoughtit was a problem that was more prevalent here in Louisiana than elsewhere, probably because I see it here on a daily basis. A stop at anyintersection brings out my instinct for self-preservation. I find myself,after my light turns green and and tells me I presumably have the right of way, peering both ways at the road I have to cross and counting, “One Louisiana, two Louisiana, three Louisiana,” before I proceed. As I’vewritten before, I have little tolerance or patience for idiots and I have no desire to meet one when they slam into the side of my car because they’re late for a hair appointment.

Anyway, based on the results of a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, I would have to say that for once Louisiana doesn’t seem to be any worse off than anywhere else when it comes to this particular issue. We didn’t even make the top five this time. Arizona takes thatcrown, followed by Nevada, Michigan, Texas, and Alabama. It seems thisproblem is widespread and getting worse, having increased by 18 percent in the period studied. According to that report nearly 6,000 people diedbetween 1992 and 1998 because some fool ran a red light. More than halfof which were people minding their own business and assuming that they had the right to proceed forward because their light was green. Sillypeople. The rest, slightly less than half the total, were the red lightrunners themselves, who paid the ultimate price for their folly, hurry, or inattention.

A further breakdown in the study shows that 800 people a year die and approximately 200,000 people a year are injured in those type incidents.

So, why is it that people disregard your safety and their own the way they do? What is it that makes just be OK to risk injury to yourself or others just because you’re in a hurry? I’ll answer that question with a question. Why should we be surprised atthe fact that people run red lights with impunity when we live in a society where common courtesy is becoming as rare as good taste? We live in a world today where being rude is an art form, and being self-interested or self-centered to the point of complete disregard for other people is the norm. Our kids are being raised with the sure knowledge that there are noconsequences for rude behavior. You can say or do as you like. It’s yourright. Rules are for other people, not you. And if you run a red light, that’sOK, everybody else does it.

So what’s the answer? I don’t know. That will be up to our government tofigure out, but I don’t have a lot of faith in that course of action. Asidefrom the fact that they’ll do whatever will get them votes and not necessarily what’s right, I’m just not sure about their common sense.

After all, these are the same guys who have decided that alcoholism is a disease but nicotine addiction is a bad habit. Think about that for aminute.

And good luck on your next trip to the store.

LEE DRESSELHAUS writes this column every Wednesday for L’Observateur.

Copyright © #Thisyear# Wick Communications, Inc.Best viewed with 4.0 or higher