Just when you think you’ve seen everything on I-95 this guy comes along.
Traveling north through South Carolina I once saw a kid on a motorcycle, his girlfriend clutching his back like a human leach, weaving in and out of traffic and zipping past cars like they were standing still.
All this while balanced on one wheel. I never saw his front wheel touch blacktop.
Just another day on the interstate in AutoAmerica.
But right now we’re all focused on killer trucks, thanks largely to a recent spate of truck-involved crashes that have claimed lives and periodically turned I-75 into a giant parking lot.
And we should worry. There seem to be more big rigs on the road every day, feeding our addiction to consumption. Pushed to stay on schedule, drivers can be sleep deprived, road dazed and tempted to cut corners…literally.
Still, if I were driving a semi, I’d be more worried about the motorized chess players who forever jump from one lane to the next, looking for that next empty sweet spot that will let them stay ahead of the competition.
Or the SUV cowboys who assume they won’t be stopped if they only drive nine miles faster than the limit.
Or small weaving cars lugging jury-rigged trailers full to the brim with loosely secured household goods.
Not to mention the digital zombies trying to simultaneously track their tiny screens and whatever may be on the road directly ahead.
Interstate driving isn’t for sissies. And calling for a crackdown on interstate speeders surely can’t hurt. Although it probably won’t help much either, unless we’re prepared to hire a vast army of state troopers to keep us safe.
Anyway, there’s a more effective and cheaper solution. Especially now that we are entering the era of “smart” highways and “smart” cars.
Across the nation states are experimenting with roads that can generate their own electricity, and even heat up to melt winter snow and ice. Sensors are being implanted to monitor traffic flow. Others may soon alert motorists if their tires are under-inflated.
If you drive on the Florida Turnpike without a Sunpass you won’t get a ticket in the mail, just a bill. This because a camera snapped your license plate.
What that camera won’t photograph or ticket is that jerk who just zipped past you doing 90 on his motorcycle while balanced on one wheel and hoping he won’t lose his girlfriend.
Actually there have been some experiments” with cameras that ticket speeders on interstates. Phoenix tried it for a couple of years. Not long ago cameras mounted on I-95 in South Carolina resulted in a marked reduction in speeding – albeit while making a lot of people hopping mad.
“We’re absolutely shutting it down,” state Sen. Larry Grooms, then transportation chair of the state’s senate, told NBC News last year.
Which is another way of saying that deadly driving isn’t a crime unless a cop actually sees you doing it.
Or until you kill somebody.
Truth be told, we have the technology to shut down speeding, reckless, distracted and all other deadly forms of driving. What we lack is the will to use it.
No, it’s easier, and less risky for politicians, to write off the 43,000 people who die on our roads and highways every year as simply the price we pay for freedom of the road in AutoAmerica.
Anyway, dead people don’t vote. But motorists who think they’ve been “set up” by technology sure do.
Ron Cunningham is former editorial page editor for The Sun.