It’s About Saving Lives

The tragic train wreck on the NY Metro-North made me shake my head because, as many of my former public safety peers well know, it was totally avoidable. It brought to mind all the countless tragedies I witnessed throughout my police career. The most frustrating of all were the traffic fatalities because of the senselessness. Some of the crashes (we stopped calling them “accidents” years ago) were no doubt caused by straight up human error, what we’d call a mental lapse. However, the vast majority are different. They are caused by human selfishness in the form of impatience, such as running a red light or criminal behavior, like driving under the influence.

One of the most despised law enforcement duties is issuing traffic citations. I think that is the task that keeps the public from loving cops the way they do firefighters. Both voluntarily work in dangerous conditions, risking personal safety for the public good, but firemen don’t also occasionally write you a ticket. Police officers sometimes hate this part of the job, too, because they’re working stiffs just like you, and recognize the financial burden a $100+ ticket will place upon that driver. Really. Cops do think about that.

Lately, much public debate has centered on the “small” or “frivolous” types of law enforcement action, like traffic stops. People feel picked on or that the cops are unnecessarily targeting them. Every cop alive has heard “Why don’t you go arrest a criminal?” on too many traffic stops to count. Well, here’s the answer: It’s not about writing tickets, it’s about saving lives. We all hate it when we get stopped, but let’s be honest, we also love seeing the jerk who’s been tailgating, speeding, weaving erratically get stopped. Right? We brand everyone who flies past us and does these things maniacs, while any person going slower is an idiot. Sound familiar?

Let’s be honest, if it were possible to allow people to make their own decisions about how to drive, we would. But it is absolutely not possible. Our own selfishness prevents that. Our egocentric attitudes are what make us run red lights, block intersections, shatter speed limits, and violate the railroad crossing warnings. According to the National Safety Council, 35,200 people died in motor vehicle accidents last year, and a staggering 3.8 million suffered injuries requiring medical attention. About 1000 traffic deaths each year are due to red light violations. Crashes involving passenger cars and trains have declined in recent years, but still cause an average of around 250 deaths a year. Statistically, about half of the deaths are innocent drivers in other cars, or in the latest NY train case, three innocent people killed and  many others badly injured. That’s why cops write tickets. To prevent these tragedies. Sadly, it seems that news footage of carnage doesn’t get the public’s attention as much as shelling out a couple hundred bucks for a ticket. So be it. Responding to horrific crashes for so many years has made me only sympathetic to the innocents in the other vehicle, not the at-fault driver.

It’s up to each of us to make better decisions while operating our cars on the road. Yeah, we have a lot of rules governing how we drive and that’s because we’ve collectively shown we need boundaries. New railroad crossings and safer roads can only do so much. You have to do the rest. Stop trying to blame the short light cycle at the intersection or that the railroad crossing is defective. They’re not. Starting tomorrow, give yourself and others a break, leave earlier, obey the rules of the road, and if you have to sit at the railroad crossing or red light, just chill the heck out. It’s not the end of the world. You’ll find that your commute is less stressful, you won’t get a ticket, and most importantly, you’ll arrive in one piece.

Tickets save lives.

Peace~LM

 

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Stop the nonsense

Have the adults finally realized that they have to actually take charge? I certainly hope so. The midterm election results are in and the drubbing of the democrats sends a clear message—but not exactly what it might appear on the surface. The results tell me two things: After six years of complete dysfunction, the American people are handing control to the Republicans and saying, “Here you go. DO Something.” Secondly, the American people have told Democrats, “Stop sniveling, grow a spine and STAND for something.” I’ll start:  I’m mostly a liberal, although I have more conservative views when it comes to law enforcement or defense. There I said it. I don’t care if you don’t like that I support universal healthcare or the death penalty or still believe that the President deserves respect, regardless of his race or party.

For far too long the political and social discourse in this country has been nothing but a toxic mess. Americans have always been at our best when we act like a family. We might fight and squabble, but in the end, we stand together from any outside threat. We say, my brother might be an a-hole, but you better not say it. This is a country built on tolerance and finding common ground. Lately, common ground isn’t even considered because compromise is somehow now a dirty word. If my neighbor doesn’t espouse the exact same belief system as mine, then they are wrong, the enemy, unworthy of respect, ignorant. And you know what? I’m really tired of it.images

I think I’m like the vast majority of middle of the road Americans. I want my leaders to—well, lead. I have friends who agree and disagree with me, which is a good thing. To my conservative friends: I don’t need you proselytizing or judging me or anyone else. It’s not your place. News flash: I was raised Catholic. I have my faith. In the New Testament I read, Jesus says: “Judge not lest ye be judged.” He also has a lot to say about being your brother’s keeper and how it’s easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get to heaven. Sorry, but I’ve come to notice that too often now when someone leads off in their self-description that they are “Christian” , that’s usually a huge red flag to me. A friend of mine shared a link from some Tea Party organization on his Facebook page the other day that read: “We need more God. Share if you agree.” I do agree, but I don’t think we need more Tea Partiers. We need real religious values of compassion, love and honesty.

So, I was very glad to hear the new Republican leadership talking about actually governing. Mitch McConnel and I are on the opposite sides of more than a few issues, but if he’s willing to find a way to work with people who don’t share his views, then he’ll have my support. But right away, the likes of Ted Cruz are already frothing at the mouth, screaming that he’s caving in to the dreaded Obama. Hey, Ted, you fantasize that you’re some second coming of Reagan. No. You are not. Ronald Reagan could talk to people on the other side, Ted. News flash: Prior to Obama, every president since FDR has talked about wanting to get universal healthcare for Americans, but it has always been deemed too difficult (read: politically dangerous). Obama did it. In the face of all your hatred, Ted. He did it and stands by it. That is actually leadership. What our country needs from all of you is to try something new—work on a solution or improvement if you think there are issues with the law. Any law.

Mitch McConnell has always wanted to be the Majority Leader. Mitch, you now have your chance to lead. You have the choice to either be like Boehner and do nothing, or seize this opportunity to make your mark on history. Infuse some of your conservative ideas into the existing laws like healthcare to improve things for your fellow Americans. It’s a fact that your home state already benefits more than almost any other from the healthcare law. Isn’t that a good thing to help more people get insurance? Fix what you think is wrong with the laws and move on. We want you to stop wasting time on repeal votes and bills to limit women’s rights and tackle real issues. Stand up to the crazy fringe in your party and say so. If you stop the bickering and work on solutions to help people, you won’t have to keep trying to convince us of your Christian values, because we’ll see them in action.

Democrats: Quit cowering in the corner and own your values. Be proud of the fact that you are the party of 100,000 police officers on the street and the Community Oriented Policing Office, which is what truly started the historic crime reduction we now enjoy. Be proud that the Affordable Care Act has helped to insure millions of Americans. Be proud of fighting to raise the minimum wage and trying to rein in corporate greed. Fight for the future of our planet by truly acknowledging climate change. Remind your conservative friends that the jobs to be realized in new technologies addressing these issues are good for business!

Both parties must stand in the ring and take your punches. Stop spouting divisive talking points and tell us what you believe in. Try having some courage of your convictions, while still humbly understanding that none of us know everything. We need more than your petulant refusal to listen to one another. And you know what? I’m betting that the majority of the American people, conservative and liberals alike, will respond with a resounding approval rating. More importantly, our country will thrive.

~Peace. LM