By Jim Cameron
Last week’s column on the increase in pedestrian deaths in Connecticut (TALKING TRANSPORTATION: What’s Driving the Increase in Pedestrian Deaths? March 19, 2023) brought us a lot of comments. Here are a few for you to consider:
I have always enjoyed your column. Today’s was particularly alarming, and perhaps a canary in the coal mine. There have been more pedestrian deaths in the past twelve months here in West Hartford than I ever recall reading about. But I’m not surprised. Driver behavior has deteriorated from the time I was a Glastonbury police officer in the 1990s. Since those days, I have spent decades on our highways all over the state, building a business, and I feel like I have some pretty on-point observations at this point:
1) The speed and recklessness of Connecticut drivers is at levels I’ve never witnessed before; approaching almost lawlessness – a real Mad Max vibe. I’m pretty chill, and I’m alarmed.
2) Everyone is staring at their phones. People weave in and out of lanes like they are driving to the basket; speeders come up on you so fast that if you are not constantly on vigil you are in real danger. I can drive by someone at 65 miles an hour and glance over to see them texting or looking at their phone in their lap. It’s surreal. So good luck if you if you are a pedestrian or on a bike and have to contend with that (at least on our local roads).
3) I hear and read that police enrollment is down, and their esprit de corps is as well, so work will have to be done with municipal and state leadership to right that ship. But to that end, and in the meantime, I rarely drive by state troopers engaged in traffic enforcement / intervention, at least anywhere near the levels I used to witness. They may have statistics that contradict my observations, but I see what I see. Nine out of ten times when I see a state trooper, they are cruising past me at high speeds in the left lane, without lights and siren. I’ll often draft ten or so car lengths behind them at the same speed, and they don’t care whatsoever.
So from what I see, the reckless drivers have little to dissuade them from continuing to operate with impunity.
4) And because of this, I’m re-thinking my opposition traffic cameras, especially if they can document reckless driving, beyond just the speed itself. If the police can’t ensure public safety by smacking down all of the aggressive drivers, then I think I’m ready to over-pay a third party to big brother us into safety on our roads, with all the downside that entails. Because right now…we can’t be in any more danger than we are currently.
I have teenage boys who will soon be driving, and while I’m hopeful they will be respectful drivers, I fear for their lives from the simmering chaos on our roads.
– DOUG RANKIN – West Hartford
I appreciate your column pointing out the rising number of pedestrian deaths and how we all need to pay attention and address this problem. I’m troubled, however, by the column’s closing point, which is about how pedestrians can keep themselves safe. Your article begins with a woman who was struck while standing in a park. What could she have done or what should she need to do to keep herself safe when she is already in what is presumably a safe place? Isn’t the more important point that drivers need to drive safely? Shouldn’t we focus first on infrastructure that encourages safe driving and then on driver responsibility?
REBECCA HUSSEY – Bethel
What do you think is causing this? I understand CT ranks like 3 rd in DUI stuff. It appears to me our drivers ed courseware should entail more of the science of why speed, distracted driving, substances, & weather conditions bring us this stuff daily. Maybe as part of drivers ed they can include simulated model driving complete with a computer screen & the student has to learn to navigate on screen as well. I think we will see a lot more of this given the cannabis bill & our lazy prosecution. They should open up the HOV lane to all so as to disperse traffic, not score social credit points. This way we may incur less tractor trailer accidents. I have recommended to DOT a new type of highway barrier that is designed to disperse momentum.
KIM LIBERA – Cromwell
People often cross midblock because they have better visual of cars versus having to contend with drivers blowing a red light or turning right on red. I don’t give a flying F if a pedestrian is looking at their phone while walking – the assumption should be safety when on our sidewalks or in bus shelters. The onus is on the driver in the 2 ton steel box.
KATE ROZEN – Twitter
JIM CAMERON has lived in Darien for over 25 years. He serves on the Darien RTM and is Program Director of Darien TV79. He served 19 years on the CT Metro-North Rail Commuter Council, four as its Chairman. In 2014 he founded a new advocacy group, The Commuter Action Group which speaks on behalf of Metro-North riders. His newspaper column “Talking Transportation” archives can be found at http://talkingtransportation.blogspot.com/