Back in 2004, I was in the Army and I was stationed in the only place that makes Alaska look like a nice, posh assignment… Fort Drum, NY. If you ever have the occasion to drive 550 miles to see an area that makes Aroostook County look exciting, go to the “North Country” of New York. What’s worse about this area (for me) is that my father was born about 40 miles away, so my family frequently visited for family reunions. But I digress….
Being a young Soldier, I frequented off-post establishments in the greater Watertown, NY area. One night, while cruising the main drag, Arsenal Street, I was chatting on my cell phone with a girl from back home in Maine when I got to a stoplight. That’s when I heard the “honk” of a car horn.
It was Mr. Policeman in the lane next to me telling me to pull over. (I wanted to try the line from the movie “Dumb and Dumber” where Harry says, “No, it’s a cardigan, but thanks for noticing,” but I didn’t want to push my luck.)
Apparently, New York was very ahead of the times, even back then. When I pulled over, the polite officer explained to me that it was against state law to talk on a cell phone without a hands-free device. I thanked the officer for the warning, but then noticed that as we were talking, about 15 people were jaywalking through the intersection we were just sitting at. I didn’t say anything, but it really irked me.
Since that day, I’ve taken special notice at the jaywalking problem. It seems as though in just about every city, state, and town, laws regarding jaywalking are on the books just to take up space on paper. They are rarely enforced, and when they are, citizens complain about the heavy hand of the law coming down on them for such a minor infraction.
These laws are on the books for the safety of the public. Not just the safety of the person that has the audacity to brazenly step out in front of my Toyota when there is clearly an indicator of a little red man telling him that it’s probably not a good time to cross. When a group of people decide to jaywalk in front of me, while I like to play the game of “10-Points Each” in my head, I actually feel compelled to stop. The person behind me, however, may not have the same keen reaction time that years of military training has given me. (O.K…. it’s not years of military training. It’s my wife yelling at me to stop before I hit them.) These jaywalkers could set off a chain reaction of car accidents by simply not waiting their turn for the light.
Imagine if 95 percent of the driving population decided that stoplights did not apply to them and they did not want to wait. It would be shear pandemonium in the streets of a city like Portland.
I guess some days it’s not too far from pandemonium in Portland…. And that doesn’t even include the problem with pedestrians.