Thursday, December 16, 2004
The JFP is joining Budweiser to present Alert Cab to offer Jacksonians free rides home this New Year's if you've had too much to drink. Please take advanage of this program. Click here to see a list of Jackson bars and restaurants participating in Alert Cab on New Year's Eve (you can also clip out the ad from page 29 of the current JFP.) Be sure to get your free voucher from a bartender at one of the participating establishments. Be safe out there, y'all, you hear? Oh, and have a wonderful time.
Todd and I often go for a morning walk through Belhaven before we go to work. We don't get up with the chickens (or go to bed with them), so we're often doing our power walk just as neighbors are leaving for work, Belhaven College students are arriving and First Pres moms are dropping off their tykes. That is, we get a first-hand look at how people behave behind the wheel in our neighborhood.
Take this morning. We're walking east on Euclid and nearing Peachtree—a busy four-way stop intersection right next to the college—and a truck roars past us, slows down slightly and turns left on two wheels, ignoring the Stop sign. About a second later, an SUV with mom and kids rolls through the stop sign to the north and then, most dramatically, after another second or two, a young woman in a huge white SUV barrels through the intersection from the south, never seeming to tap her brakes. This all happens within the seconds it takes us to reach the intersection. Needless to say, none of these law-breakers cared that we pedestrians had the right of way.
Most disturbing, though, with only a slight change of luck and few shifts of seconds, there would have been body and car parts flying every direction. This is bad driving, and it is a stark reminder to me of my beautiful childhood best friend—a young woman killed when she was 14 because some lout ran a Stop sign.
We see this hideous driving every single day—in Belhaven, and in other neighborhoods throughout the city. People in Jackson, with a few exceptions, do not seem to think that Stop signs apply to them. Too many folks treat them as if they are a suggestion, not a legal requirement. And it shows an incredible self-centeredness, and a lack of concern about other drivers, residents, pedestrians, pets and children—including your own.
Beyond the obvious danger and annoyance of Stop sign runners, it amazes me that people do not understand that children grow up to emulate their parents. That is, if you do not respect Stop signs when you're driving them to kindergarten, they likely won't respect them when they're 16 and start driving. You may think you know what lurks around every corner, and what doesn't (ahem), but I assure you they don't. I found myself wondering this morning if the young Belhaven College woman had grown up in the passenger seat of one of those huge SUVs with Madison plates that roar through our neighborhood every morning, often with Mom on the cell phone. I'm not telling folks how to raise their kids, but I am telling you that you are endangering them and the rest of us. Think.
You may think I'm writing about this because I'm miffed because, as someone who likes to walk, drivers do not respect my rights. Well, yes, that's true. But it's not the whole story. I also want to make a big, friggin' deal out of this auto-centricism because it is hurting our efforts to become an attractive Creative Class city. How's that, you say?
Well, people walk in cool cities. They walk their dogs, they jog, they bike, they scoot, they even go to work on foot. (This is one way we can stop being the most obese state in the nation.)
Cool cities also have an air of inclusiveness about them. That is, people don't glare at you just because you're walking—or because, as a pedestrian, you have the damned right of way. In New York City—where the driving makes a whole lot of sense to me—you seldom see anyone run a Stop sign or traffic light. For one thing, they know they might hit someone walking because they're everywhere. For another, they know they may get slapped with a hefty driving violation.
That brings me to my first call-to-action of this column. I hereby challenge the Jackson Police Department to start issuing more tickets to people who roll through Stop signs (not to mention roar through them). I'm fully aware that the police can't sit on my block every day, nor should they, but what I'd like to see (or not to see) is an increased presence of JPD cars tucked strategically around the corner from these heinous intersections. I want to see them turn on their lights, pull over the driver and ticket her or him. If this is done often enough, word will quickly spread at First Pres or in downtown offices, and people will start stopping at the Stop signs.
My suggestion is that JPD just spread the wealth around randomly. I urge readers to go to our Web site and, under this story, post dangerous intersections where you witness the worst driving. We need to help the police on this one. But, more than anything, smarter driving is everyone's responsibility. And speaking of responsibility, let's move on to my second call-to-action: Stop driving drunk. Cold turkey. Don't do it.
Another not-so-secret problem in the Jackson area is the drinking-and-driving culture. I have lived a good many places in my adult life, and I can tell you that it's probably as bad here as anywhere I've lived, if not worse. That is, because we drive everywhere and don't have good public transportation, we tend to drive after we've been drinking. We all know someone who has died as a result of this stupidity—and often because they thought it was OK, or even cool, to drive while drunk, or even while drinking. This is the culture that taught them that, and the culture needs to change.
The JFP is joining with Southern Beverage and other businesses this holiday season to raise awareness about driving while intoxicated by offering the Alert Cab program. Bartenders at participating bars and restaurants can request a free cab ride home for customers who've had too much to drink. See http://www.designateddriver.com and the JFP Web site for a full list of venues and more info. And if you're a drinking establishment, please come on board. If you're a customer, ask for the free cab. Most importantly, though, we must continue this effort past the holidays.
We can change this, people, together. There is nothing cool or macho about not giving your keys up. When you're going out, choose a designated driver. If you run a bar, give the designated drivers free non-alcoholic drinks. Pay for a cab if you must; it's pricey, but so are funerals.
2004 Alert Cab Participants/New Year's Eve
Crossroads Bar & Grill
Rhythm & Brews
Pops Around the Corner
This Is It
Buffalo Wild Wings
Left Field Sports Grill
105 East Capitol
206 East Capitol
Hal & Mal's
I agree completely. And it is not just in the neightborhoods--one of the worst groups ignoring basic rules of the road is truckers. My mom was killed by one who decided it wasnt worth his time to stop at a red light on the highway--no excuses: not drunk, plenty of time to stop, just decided not to. These gigantic SUVs are a problem too, they seem to give drivers a feeling of immortality or delusions of grandeur. For worst intersections: basically anyplace on HWY 18 or HWY 80.
A poignant message about drunk driving from the Tucson Weekly. Don't do it. There is nothing cool about killing, or getting killed. Drunk driving is not a mistake, and it's not an accident. It is a calculated act of potential mayhem and manslaughter. The people who commit this crime are a peculiar sub-level of humans who have been coddled by the legal system for far too long. Do drunk drivers deserve a legal defense? Even Scott Peterson deserved one. But I hope that they, like he, get a really lousy one. I'm not writing this because I, alone, have endured such a tragedy in my extended family. To the contrary, I'm afraid that a majority of Americans have had a similar experience with friends or family in their lives. That amounts to a national disgrace, one that could be eradicated if only we had the collective will to confront this for what it is--a cowardly crime committed by weak-willed and selfish people who deserve neither our respect nor our compassion. Full column
Another New Year's safety option -- for those who live in the 'burbs or further away, and don't want to drive home. From our friend Cyrus Webb: Dear JFP staff, If there is any interested in ending their night at a hotel (not a motel, lol), they can visit the Best Western Executive Inn, Downtown Jackson for a special New Years rate of $46.80 plus taxes. That's only $51.29 with taxes! They just need to mention the New Years Eve special--- it's available after 7p.m. tonight. They can contact Cyrus A. Webb at (601) 201-8139 or (601) 969-6555.
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