Here is a national win-win: Turn up the political calendar to 2020

Here is a national win-win: Turn up the political calendar to 2020

               We are in national pickle: we have a delusional president who could do serious damage, an irresponsible Congress that is too partisan to serve us and save us, a crisis-crazed media that needs constant adrenaline rushes, and a special prosecutor who may soon be squeezing the president, and his family and staff, for the truth about their involvement with Russia. It seems hopeless, like we are trapped, bound to suffer thru three more years of an unpopular president.  But there is an easy solution that might get a good deal of support: turn the calendar to 2020.   Continue reading

It’s a Traffic Jungle Out There

DAVID WEBBER: It’s a traffic jungle out there

Columbia MISSOURIAN

Daily driving has gotten tougher over the past decade or two. More round-abouts to contend with, J-turns on Highway 63, U-turns confusion at any time, more bicyclists on the streets, sitting behind texting drivers waiting to turn left at a busy intersection and the light turns amber. Here in Columbia, the City Council will soon consider an ordinance to ban texting while driving by all drivers, not just those under 21 or commercial drivers as is the current ordinance. This is a necessary, but insufficient, to make Columbia’s roads safer and less stressful.

Forty-seven states ban texting while driving, all but five have primary enforcement, allowing officers to issue a citation when they see a driver texting regardless of other infractions. Missouri is not one of them, choosing instead to ban texting for drivers under 21.

In the Midwest, driving is essential to most people’s lives. For some, it is joy and escape, for others it is stress and anxiety. As the population grows so do the number of registered vehicles to nearly 270 million. Increased economic development may mean more jobs, but it also means more vehicles with more drivers. More of these drivers have cell phones, some use them while driving despite knowing it is not a wise social practice. We may have smartphones but we have a lot of not so many smart drivers. The American fatality rate is 40 percent higher than Canada and Australia. Americans still drive too fast and too many still resist seat belts.

With two decades worth of data, the facts support prohibiting cell use while driving. One insurance company estimated that in 2010 more than two-thirds of drivers use cell phones. A California Highway patrol study found that about 10 percent of drivers are using cell phones at any time. The National Highway Safety Administration reports that more than 3,000 fatalities in 2015 were due to distracted driving. That’s about 10 percent of all traffic fatalities.

Individuals who drive while sending or reading text messages are 23 more times likely to be involved in a car crash than other drivers. A crash typically happens within an average of three seconds after a driver is distracted.

Modern information technology can be tools for solving the problems it created. Two websites are useful for discouraging texting while driving. Itcanwait.com offers a pledge that you, the driver, will put your phone down while driving. The site also provides educational materials including a realistic simulation demonstrating the impact of distracted driving. DriveSafe.ly is a mobile application that reads text messages and emails aloud in real time and automatically responds without drivers touching their cellphone.

My own informal observation of local drivers is that a lot more than 10 percent use cellphones while driving. My eyes see that closer to 25 percent of drivers who pass through Stadium and Broadway are actively using a cellphone and that at least that many have a cellphone on the seat or console ready to go, if needed. There has been an epidemic of cellphone users and it is not limited to drivers 21 and under. In fact, I would venture that 21 and under drivers are probably no riskier than are older drivers.

The chief consequence of text while driving is distracted driving. Despite our desire to make it so, multi-tasking is a myth. The brain cannot not competently handle many tasks at once. A distraction is interrupted thought. Failure to see an object or another vehicle is a textbook example of distracted driving.

Driving patterns have changed over the past decade — most likely due to cellphones. Failure to signal, delayed passage through left hand-turns and four-way stops, and hogging the left lane are widespread driving practices due to cellphones. It is common practice, i.e. more than half, for vehicles leaving the University hospital or the MU sports complex via Stadium towards the Mall to go immediately into the left lane and stay there until they exit at Broadway, the mall or I-70. They prefer the left lane because it gives them more flexibility while checking their cellphone.

Running on city streets has become more hazardous as well. Running in the bike lane toward traffic is dangerous because of the vehicles that straddle the bike lane so the driver has a buffer on both sides. Similarly, running in subdivisions is dangerous due to the vehicles turning right at a stop sign without ever looking for oncoming runners or pedestrians.

Regulating distracting driving presents several challenges, including deciding between “primary” and “secondary’ enforcement and deciding how much surveillance is appropriate. Designating distracting driving as an illegal driving behavior is a deterrent in itself. Most citizens prefer to comply with the law. A local ordinance will serve as a little nudge to cause drivers to do what they know they should do, i.e. put down their phones and drive more safely.

David Webber joined the MU Political Science Department in 1986 and wrote his first column for the Missourian in 1994.

https://www.columbiamissourian.com/opinion/local_columnists/david-webber-it-s-a-traffic-jungle-out-there/article_6e0dceea-d309-11e7-aced-67b7b1dbd8d6.html

Campus sex culture meets public policy

David Webber Columbia Missourian Oct 30, 2017

https://www.columbiamissourian.com/opinion/local_columnists/david-webber-campus-sex-culture-meets-public-policy/article_a46ba18c-b839-11e7-925e-ff7bfb279bdc.html

Vanessa Grigoriadis’ “Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power and Consent on Campus” is the most thought-provoking book I have read this year — not because of its tales of sexual encounters (although it is a bit shocking to readers over 50) but because it is a street-level report from a political and social revolution in progress.

Grigoriadis’ approach is to understand and solve a problem rather than engage in rhetorical warfare. She artfully shows the importance of language, ideology and culture in shaping public opinion and public policy. She argues that most cases of college sexual assault are better labeled as “acquaintance assault” rather than “date rape.” The term “sexual assault” itself needs clarification.

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Springsteen Says It Best: What Writing Is Like (for me, too).

Springsteen Says It Best: What Writing Is Like (for me, too).          

               I re-discovered Bruce Springsteen in about 2009 and have enjoyed re-learning about myself by re-considering his old stuff and listening to how he talks, and writes, about his life. In preparing for his upcoming “Bruce on Broadway” he gave a long interview to the New York TIMES where, of all things, he captured what creating writing is like. Continue reading

The Two Young Men Legislative Candidates in “Practicing Democracy”

The Two Young Men Legislative Candidates in “Practicing Democracy”

          In “Practicing Democracy”  https://practicingdemocracy.org/ Tom Kelly and Ryan Brown are two ambitious young candidates aspiring for the state legislature who meet an elder statesman (Mr. Adams) aspiring to restore democracy. Tom and Ryan reflect the hundreds of young male students I have taught as a college professor. They are representatives of types of young men I am familiar with but are not composites of specific people (as Mr. Adams, the main character, is). Continue reading

Need Not Appear, if Paid in Full

Need Not Appear,  if Paid in Full

 

                This morning I drove a guy to court in an adjoining country related to his plea bargain for check fraud that he thought he has settled last year. He has been paying restitution for six months but might have had his probation revoked because, much to his surprise, he had not paid the court costs of $312.  He had believed that the court costs were rolled into the restitution plan that he had agreed to and honored. As it turns out, he missed a half day of work, and pay, for his two-minute court appearance.  He works maintenance at two low-rent motels and needs medical attention and the flexibility that having money in your pocket gives you. Continue reading