Thursday, September 25, 2014

Info from Dwight Hines Livermore Resident

The Right Stuff:
 Maine Transportation and 
Safety Committee
Maine Turnpike Authority, Portland
9:00 A.M., to Noon, September 11, 2014
Guest Speaker: Cindy Mervis, Epidemiologist,
University of Southern Maine
Dwight E. Hines

“. . . they draw the lines of things with reference to man, and not with reference to the universe; and this is not to be corrected except by reason and a universal philosophy.”  

The MTSC has the right stuff.  It’s more than about traffic, you know.  These are the folks who set boundaries, bright lines and ruffled noisy teeth rattling pavement and double yellow lines and blood and urine tests and classes and novel engineering and school buses and data bases that are much much cleaner than other places, and you need to come to the next meeting, in Augusta, November 6, 9 A.M., Central Maine Commerce Building, if you want to see how diverse —federal, state, regional, and local — individuals in a multidisciplinary group who work separately, but have that rare form of aboriginal synchrony so they all know what their counterparts are doing here and in places like Hawaii and Australia and in-between. 

There’s not much filler in these meetings, so go to the bathroom before the meeting starts or you’ll miss the update on how the flying Maine State Troopers are coordinating planes and Trooper cars to provide much needed consequences to those people, young and old, fat and thin, healthy and sick, rich and poor —  All of whom have never internalized their boundaries, boundaries we need, boundaries we must have to live together in a community. 

MTSC is a success story.  They are saving lives, more and more each year.  If you look at the numbers, ugly numbers because the cold numbers represent squashed bodies, torn in pieces bodies, bodies so damaged you make a promise to yourself to never to work in an emergency room, no matter how much you need the money or how fascinating the research project is.  A promise that I’ve kept, never even tempted to break it for over 40 years.  Looking at the Maine and national data on wrecks and crashes for the past ten years, data that are valid, reliable, and when the breakdowns have adequate numbers, generalizable, the declines in all the ugly numbers look like a soft, rolling miracle is happening. 

MTSC is not sitting around in lounge chairs at the beach, eating bon-bons, watching beautiful women or sleeping or both.  They have an updated Strategic Highway Plan almost ready for the presses, and several reports from collaborative work with an epidemiologist, who was at this meeting.  She came with about 1.2 kilos of charts and tables, and we all got to watch a new miracle.  The epidemiologist brought a thumb drive, or stick drive, with all her tables and charts, weighing less than a few Canadian goose feathers, but not her computer.  Kathleen had not thought to bring her computer, but the State Trooper brought his and as we all watched, an alien thumb drive was plugged into a totally strange Maine State Trooper computer and the computer then displayed WALL- SIZED graphs and charts and tables and the epidemiologist talked not too fast (but close) and not too slow, about each graph, chart and table with visible joy in her heart.  Epidemiologists have known and unknown relationships with numbers, relationships that often carry baggage larger than a football field, and twice as heavy.  If you have numbers phobia, or have been diagnosed as hopelessly innumerate, you need to come to the MTSC meeting to start, and likely finish, desensitizing yourself to numbers large and small.  To say MTSC folks are data-driven is an understatement akin to saying moose are big.

I have to admit MTSC is so good that you feel good about all the taxes you’re paying and you feel even better when you see the results, absolutely lovely results from what MTSC does.  The results morph into a wobbly collection of sharp, pointy, slippery handleless razor shards and fragments when you think of how to best calculate the dollar value of a human life and, thank goodness, I’ve never heard such calculations mentioned at MTSC.  I know ways to calculate these dollar values but I refuse to do so because it is dehumanizing to the victims and their families and to those making the calculations, yeah, like me. 

MTSC has not yet tackled the television shows, which are many, and the movies, which are also many, that show people driving in different conditions at different ages, looking everywhere but where the vehicle is headed.  Themes of love appear to be as heavy on driving blind due to the long meaningful shares the driver and the passenger share as are themes of aggression, mostly macho-intense stares capable of frying eggs up to 12 meter distances, challenging, shared stares that are visual challenges and threats, coated with amounts of testosterone not seen since the last Neanderthal died in Western Europe, about 40,000 years ago.  No doubt they, the Neanderthals, went extinct from looking long at their passenger when talking instead of watching where they were going.  These
love based staring bouts with the driver looking away from the traffic ahead, looks that last so long, completely ignoring in-front traffic while staring at the passenger, make you realize that Darwinian survival dynamics are at work, negating not just the concept but the reality of wrongful descriptions and archaic explanations that use the word “accident.”

Yes and yet.  You read that last sentence correctly.  No such thing as an accident, says MTSC.  I’m Not Freudian, nor Jungian, but maybe, just maybe. . ., we have matured enough to take responsibility for not looking where we are going.  Maybe, just maybe, a respect for the boundaries of movement, fast ripping movements, are evolution’s strategies to keep us healthy as a community because being personally responsible for law-limits as boundaries is necessary, is essential, to define who we are as individually.

Our individual responsibility is captured and measured by the black box, and some sophisticated math, the types of objective information that your car’s computer can provide to law enforcement, like it did for the white woman who attacked the children with her van, not because they were Black, she said, but because she was angry with them, told the world, by way of the court, that the repeated changes in speed and direction were conscious and intentional.  The black box is your vehicular polygraph.  Couple the black box facts with the facts of few, very few exploding tires, and very few self-peeling retreads scattered across your road ahead and the fact that nobody drives jalopies any more so mechanical errors, unless manufactured into the vehicle, means we can start examining more slippery contributors to crashes and deaths by vehicles.  Indeed, when you drive across Maine, you’ll see that the causes of people pulling to the side of the road are not inadequate radiators or worn timing gears, but a patch of wild blackberries.

MTSC has advanced way past 44 years ago when some goofy men, all white men, set up miles of computer cables under rural Maine’s deadly curvy roads that winter turned into a circle of hell to match the Circle of Dante’s where people were buried upside down and had their feet tickled for eternity.  The goofy traffic safety men, all male, all white, programmed in assembly language and were part of a dispersed collection of some strange people testing mechanical safety devices like the third brake light in the middle of the back window.  That third brake light worked beyond expectations because the assembly programmers used conservative statistics to estimate how effective the improvements would be in reducing rear-end collisions, unless the person driving was looking at his passenger with lust in his heart instead of trying to see through the Maine January white-out, when the road was curved or bent and they discovered that a Poisson distribution, that same exact Poisson distribution that described the pattern of buzz bombs that fell on England, gifts from a culture that believed they were superior to the rest of us, that same Poisson distribution described the crashes best.   We need more men, and women, who are strange like these people, strange in good ways only, to help us see crashes and death with new and improved perspectives, perspectives that will allow us to ask the questions that, once asked in the proper way, will be answered.

And if someone wants to make some real money, more money than Disney's Worlds and Lands, talk to those highway specialists who lurk in the university and state and federal traffic programs in North Carolina or Michigan or Minnesota or work with the more abstract, perfectly satisfied lovers of RITA, (Research and Innovative Technology Administration <http://www.its.dot.gov/modal/modal_nhtsa.htm>), and set up a system to sell tickets to people who would like to simply watch these creative problem solvers, who are not just strange, but have crossed the invisible, dangerous borders of their minds numerous times between our world and other worlds, worlds where they do their work, often their best work.  

The future looks good for traffic safety because we may have maxed out the mechanical weaknesses and can start to focus our problem formulations on the personal (emotional) and cultural weaknesses that we all have and are best addressed by the community, working to define the boundaries each time those without boundaries drive into our lives.  One observation that now appears to support Stetson Kennedy’s recording of vehicle license plates at klan meetings when he was working undercover with the Georgia Attorney General, is that those who actively fear and hate have unhappy lives, lives that also are substantively shorter than those who maintain their beliefs and feelings in a balanced, overall positive state. 

DH