I usually get sent to traffic school for speeding.
I’m not a bad driver, just a fast driver. And, I admit, I kind of like traffic school.
One of the things you learn is that speeding doesn’t cause many accidents, which reinforces my belief that most speeding citations have more to do with revenue generation than public safety.
There are two other key takeaways from traffic school. One is the horrifying evidence that most people piloting multi-ton vehicles through the streets pay very little attention to what they’re doing—even if they’re not on the phone—and this is especially the case when they go through intersections. The other is that a lot more cars are hit by trains every year than you would even think possible. Where are all those trains coming from?
But anyone who has waited at the light at St. Francis Drive and Cerrillos Road can believe it: Light after light, motorists who fail to pay attention pull past the legal stopping line and idly wait to be crushed by the Rail Runner.
I’m kind of a survival of the fittest advocate, so my solution would be to outfit the Rail Runner with deluxe, spike-riddled cowcatchers complete with saw blades and lasers. That way we’d eventually be whittled down to a population that’s smart enough to avoid stopping on the train tracks and, with luck, the instinct would become part of our genetic code.
But, government being government, a “safety blitz” of classic behavioral conditioning has been launched. On Jan. 12, City of Santa Fe police officers and a host of volunteers from an alphabet soup of agencies and organizations loitered around the intersection and played Pavlov. (A similar blitz is scheduled for Jan. 20 at St. Francis Drive and Zia Road.)
Drivers who stopped in accordance with the multiple, brightly colored signs and warnings were given a treat (a water bottle or Rail Runner tickets). Drivers who didn’t stop in time got a face full of officer and the promise of a pricey ticket next time they space out.
It would take a comedic force the size of South Park or The Simpsons to fully contextualize how ludicrous such a scene is in a society allegedly populated with thinking adults, but this new governmental conditioning strategy does offer some compelling opportunities for continued application. What other behavioral blitzes would improve Santa Fe?
• City crews that stop and repair potholes would be given lemonade and massages. City crews that pretend to be busy with something else would be forced to use bicycles for a month.
• People who use below-average amounts of water would receive a free tree to plant. People who overuse water would be waterboarded in their own excess.
• Citizens with productive input at City Council meetings would get complimentary parking keys. Citizens with unconstructive complaints would have to spend the rest of the meeting sitting quietly with small adobe bricks in their mouths.
• Tourists who correctly pronounce “Cerrillos” and “Guadalupe” would be given leftover 400th anniversary commemorative coins. Tourists who butcher traditional culture with careless language would get the “special” green chile combo plate.
• Santa Feans who successfully navigate a traffic circle would continue on to their destinations. Santa Feans who can’t deal with its complexity would be sent to a special camp where they use a large hamster wheel to generate alternative energy.
• Legislators who vote to close the corporate loophole that allows big-box stores like Walmart and Home Depot to avoid paying gross receipts tax would get to direct gifts from grateful, local businesses to the charity of their choice. Legislators who vote against closing the loophole would get to goddamn well make up the difference out of their own pockets.
• Folks who use a recycled or non-disposable bag for grocery shopping would receive 20 percent off their purchases. Folks who require the temporary use of brand-new, resource-intensive plastic sacks to transport a few things a short distance would get an extra sack free—to put over their heads.
• Drivers who respect speed bumps and understand that they are installed in neighborhoods for safety, tranquility and community preference would get a pat on the back from officer friendly and “good driver” stickers. Drivers who treat speed bumps as their own personal playground for catching air and reckless abandon would be strapped to their chairs during extensive, behavior modification traffic school. See you there.
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