Incompetent drivers beware
There’s a train track crossing the road just around the corner from my house.
It’s a block or so away from a busy intersection, and there’s a big sign posted urging people not to stop their vehicles on the tracks.
Capital City drivers apparently don’t pay attention to such signs, as they regularly stopped on those tracks until one day, when a train hit someone.
So the powers that be installed a stoplight at the track. It turns red when traffic at the nearby stoplight is backed up.
That’s right, public tax dollars had to be spent because people didn’t have enough sense to wait until there was enough room on the other side of a train track to pull over it.
Around the other corner from my house, a little farther away, there’s a fire station. In front of it, there’s a big sign that tells people not to block access and a stoplight between the station’s two big driveways.
When I pull up, I stop before the first drive or, if there is room, between the two. The majority of other drivers here in Capital City who ignore such signs pull up and block the station’s driveway, too busy talking on their cell phones or sending text messages to worry about house fires or medical emergencies.
And that state law they passed making texting while driving illegal? It hasn’t hampered dumb people from playing on their smart phones during their morning and evening commutes here in Columbus, judging by the number of individuals with their heads tilted down and vehicles swerving all over the place that I have to avoid everyday. But that’s a subject for another day.
There are plenty of other displays of roadway incompetence — people passing school buses with stop signs extended or refusing to pull over when a fire truck or ambulance with lights flashing and sirens blaring comes in their direction.
The former have the authority in Ohio to contact law enforcement when some knucklehead breaks the law and passes while kids are boarding or exiting their buses.
The latter don’t have that ability now, but that could change, thanks to law changes being considered in the Ohio Senate.
Sen. Jim Hughes, a Republican from Columbus, has offered SB 97 to permit firefighters and other emergency responders to report traffic violators to local police. They don’t have that authority under state law now.
Under the bill, responders could provide the license plate number and a general description of the drivers in question to law enforcement, who, in turn, would investigate and issue citations or offer warnings.
“I believe it is important to ensure that emergency personnel have a clear and direct path by which to quickly and safely travel to ultimately save the lives of those in danger while helping to make our roadways safer,” Hughes told the Senate’s Public Safety, Local Government and Veterans Affairs Committee last week.
If nothing else, an officer showing up at traffic violators’ doors to talk about the dumb thing they did behind the wheel while that ambulance was going by should shake some sense into them and, hopefully, prompt them to think twice before doing it again.
It would be even better if someone would convince people not to stop their cars on train tracks or block fire department driveways, particularly when there are big signs warning against such behavior.
Marc Kovac is The Vindicator’s Statehouse correspondent. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.