09

GarageLove: A Corner Station In My Backyard

by Per Schroeder

A friend of mine pointed out that that it was pretty funny that many of the houses he saw on his morning commute had a corner station in the backyard. Puzzled, I asked RJ what the heck he was talking about. “Gazebos—everyone has a prefabbed gazebo on their property it seems—that’s what a lot of race tracks use as worker stations.”

I hadn't looked at them that way before, but he certainly was right. Roebling Road, Road Atlanta and Carolina Motorsports Park, among others, use the familiar ready-made white gazebos or other prefabbed sheds at various points around their circuit as handy places for the workers to watch for dangerous conditions and warn approaching drivers.

My mind wandered—wouldn’t it be cool if that instead of that unmarked police cruiser tucked in the weeds, we had highway safety crews in one of those gazebos watching for issues and alerting passing motorists? I think the highways of America might be a safer place.

If the government really wanted our highways to be safe—and not just meet an mandated speed limit—then they would put the safety workers out there in bright white jumpsuits, give them bright orange gloves and a bunch of flags—and maybe our nation’s highways would be safer.

 

Couldn't these guys make your commute safer? 

I am exaggerating a bit—that’s not a practical solution as-is, but there must be some way to look at traffic patterns and issues with observers and officials acting on the ground to improve safety—not revenue generation.

On my morning commute, there are two things that I can count on. There will be an unmarked cop on the left side of the road after a long downslope heading out of the city. There will also be a massive traffic jam about six miles up the road where another highway joins and then splits away. The resulting cluster usually backs up traffic due to regular accidents that make a mess of things.

 

Trust me, I just passed an unmarked police car that's only there to generate revenue. 

Would it be possible to change how the local and state police as well as the federal transportation agencies focus their efforts? Instead of that speed trap, I’d like to see safety vehicles stationed at regular intervals around major metropolitan highways: wreckers, ambulances and safety trucks that are set up for rapid response. This would reduce the long lag time (and traffic back-ups) that we typically see after relatively minor accidents.

While some toll roads and municipalities have some aspects of this, there could be a way to look at the club racing track worker as a model for early warning and rapid response teams on public roads.

 

Even in the heat of battle, a waving red flag is easy to spot.  

Now, just like at the track—where a pit lane and paddock speed limit is strictly enforced—I’m a strong proponent of penalties for speeding where there’s a potential for pedestrian traffic. Neighborhoods, school zones and urban areas are all appropriate for fair and reasonable speed limit monitoring.

 

Ok, this is a better kind of traffic—and I've got corner workers warning me of any danger ahead.  

This is a short putt here: don’t be a dumbass and you won’t get a ticket in these situations.  My last speeding ticket was actually in just such a situation. I gladly paid the fine—I was not paying attention and was speeding in a residential area. I deserved it. 

Our goal in traffic safety should be communication of dangerous conditions first, rapid response second and revenue generation a distant third. We could shift the focus towards real-time proactive alerts to drivers about real dangers that are seen every day and respond quicker to true emergencies. Save the LEO time for patrolling where people live to keep folks safe. 

 

Does your commute need a corner worker station or two? Mine sure does. 
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Comments
Crousti
Croustilink
Friday, October 10, 2014 2:13 AM
I thought about that too. But there is a massive flaw in the reasoning here. It is based on the hypothesis general people are smart enough to acknowlege they are actually moving a 1+ton "thing" at mortal speed, pay attention to their surrounding accordingly, and somewhat like to drive.

That hypothesis is wrong. For most people a car is just a way to move. There is absolutely no anticipation in their driving, no analysis of what is happening around. They just have no idea, because they don't care. A lot of people also drive without their full abilities (drugs, alcohol, lack of sleep, or just disabilities).

In that condition it does not matter what you try to signal: people will either not see it, or not understand it. Even worse, people will get attracted to them, like moths to a flame.

Most people really ARE too dumb to drive safely, but there is no way any government prevents its citizen from using a car, that would be an economical disaster. So, back to the basics. People can't understand what it means to drive safely, the message must be simplified then. "Faster than the limit = less money" kind of work. Too bad for the people who can actually drive... that is what sharing the road is about. And that is the same reason we drive on tracks.

Ole-M
Ole-Mlink
Friday, October 10, 2014 6:05 AM
it's the same in every country, I said to the last cop that stopped me, can't you setup shops in residential areas instead ? I was doing 110Km/h in a 80 km/h zone, but tis a sports car and it's really stable, good braking power and always in excellent condition.
Whilst people driving rust hulks with rusted brake rotors and doing 65 km/h in a 40 zone that got no dividing line because it's just wide enough for two cars to pass eachother, also trees and low sight with kids playing...

I've requested it where I live, and still haven't seen them, however on the straightest road of them all they can be seen every week.
and Norway is notorious for having low speed limits on good roads..
The road in question have had one fatality in 15 years due to completely worn rear tires...
Rara
Raralink
Friday, October 10, 2014 9:48 AM
I'm not sure how the revenue flows in other countries, but here in the US at least, it will never be about safety as long as the Police departments and municipalities issuing the tickets benefit in any way from said tickets.
Per Schroeder
Per Schroederlink
Friday, October 10, 2014 10:10 AM
I think it's pretty telling that many traffic-enforcing police cars in the States are painted to be non-descript, while European police cars are bright as heck...you know, so you can see where they are for safety purposes.
octagon
octagonlink
Friday, October 10, 2014 11:45 AM
I don't disagree that more can be done as Per suggests but that costs money that isn't there now and likely won't be there in the future. No politician suggest a gas tax increase and with fuel economy standards going higher there will be less money coming in.

Police depts get very little of the actual ticket revenue from each ticket they issue. Focusing on the limited number of police and their activity seems to be the wrong group to target for real change. If there is ever going to be a comparison to other countries as so often happens in discussions about traffic safety we need to look at drivers. Drivers training and standards are so much lower in this country compared to countries like the UK and Germany. The costs and time involved to get and keep a license is night and day. Both those and other EU countries also have comprehensive mass transit systems that allow for people to get and maintain a job without a car. This means people who choose or shouldn't be driving don't have to and drivers that show they aren't responsible can be suspended or revoked permanently. In the US this doesn't happen either through police or court leniency. When we as a country take traffic safety seriously we will see real change. That likely may mean vehicle inspections, higher costs for infrastructure repair and upkeep, more comprehensive and costly initial and continuing drivers education/training. I don't see it ever happening. We can't get the most basic concepts across like lane discipline, following distances or turning on lights at dusk,dark or foul weather. I see no chance of more complex areas improving.
Crousti
Croustilink
Saturday, October 11, 2014 10:58 AM
@per schroeder > actually Europe has the same system, very visible standard police vehicule, and other that just look like regular ones. When the visible ones are hunting for speeding tickets, they hide. It is already too late when (if) you see them... they use wireless radars and are parked 150ft away.
Rockwood
Rockwoodlink
Monday, October 13, 2014 9:53 AM
I wonder if half the reason people don't pay any attention when they're driving is because they're forced to drive at inane speeds. Think of it: modern vehicles don't even get close to breaking a sweat at 65mph. It's an insanely easy feat in ANY vehicle sold today to maintain freeway speeds. Since it's so easy, and transit times are artificially inflated, people start looking for things to do: cell phones, email, watching YouTube videos, you name it. Why are all of our cars so boring here? Again: 65mph is boring. We have this wonderful Interstate System, and yet we're forced to drive on it at speeds that make absolutely no sense. Since we can't use the system to its potential, we look for other shit to keep us entertained.

People will ALWAYS pay attention to what's fun. If you were to (slowly) introduce an increasing speed limit until it was unregulated in the places it makes sense (a huge portion of freeways), people will get a LOT less bored and actually pay attention. You can't tell me the average German is THAT much smarter than the average American.

Lastly, instead of writing people tickets for speeding, you write them tickets for CRASHING (which is the behavior we're trying to avoid) and for holding up traffic (speed delta being far more dangerous). This allows everyone to work within their own limits and not punish everyone because a small percentage of the population can't handle it.

Of course, this is far too Libertarian for the average American and lawmaker (THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!) and will never pass. Plus, it annihilates city coffers.
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