06 July 2010

Road Overkill

On northbound Peyton Drive approaching Chino Hills Parkway (State Route 142), there is a dedicated right turn lane, clearly striped and marked.  To assist drivers, who might not otherwise know what a "dedicated right turn lane" actually is, the City of Chino Hills installed, as they should, a sign reminding said navigators of said road, that "right lane must turn right ahead", or something to that effect.  At some point, though, some road warriors must have not gotten the message, so there are now two additional said signs--that's right, three consecutive signs just yards apart, one after the other, saying the same exact thing.

Now, on eastbound Carbon Canyon Road at the lower portion of the S-curve in Chino Hills, the same phenomenon has occurred in recent days.  Actually, several changes have been made to this winding section of state highway over the last few years.  A guardrail system was installed (and several panels already have been replaced because of drivers either scraping, or, more pointedly, plowing through, them), and reflectors placed.  Still, after the last major incident there, an early morning (5 a.m.) event, in which a car went straight through the guardrail and skidded down the slope below, it appears that CalTrans has stepped up its efforts to utilize signage as a deterrent.

Hence, the photograph above, which shows a new warning sign indicating that a curved section of road is imminent and that drivers are advised to go 20 mph through that curve.  Notice, however, that there already is one of these signs, which has been there for years, just a hop, skip and jump down the road, and, yet, was deemed insufficient in warning operators of vehicles of the impending change in direction and recommended adjustment in speed.  Additionally, bright silvery white reflectors have been added at intervals along the guardrail on the shoulder of the roadway, as another way to try and keep drivers on the road rather than taking unplanned detours onto the shoulder or down embankments.

Of course, for untold decades, Carbon Canyon Road has had a bright double yellow line down the center, very visible at night, as well as solid white lines on each side to demarcate the transition from roadway to shoulder.  A plethora of directional arrow signs have also existed for many years as additional guides to the seemingly near-impossible task for some of remaining on the road.

Alas, now the repetitive sign phenomenon appears to be the latest effort.  And, yet, what do signs really do beyond a certain expected outcome?   In other words, if CalTrans or city traffic engineers put one sign at a given place, warning of potential issues in navigating that stretch of roadway, and, still, some people are incapable of heeding the advice and following the otherwise well-marked path set out before them, does repetitive sign syndrome really help?

If persons are speeding, driving carelessly, operating a vehicle under chemical impairment, etc., do we really expect that additional signage of the exact same type will make all the difference and miraculously cause said drivers to suddenly alter their behavior?

Is it, instead, possible that repetitive sign syndrome is a mask for discontinuous enforcement syndrome?  That is, local officials don't really have either the interest, inclination, or, perhaps, human and monetary resources to invest in something that would actually have far more likely an impact in mitigating driving dangerous behavior:  that archaic, antiquated, so-twentieth-century, concept of "patrolling"?

Courtesy of The American Heritage College Dictionary, Third Edition (1993--oops, that is the 20th-century, now isn't it?), p. 1002: 

"pa - trol (pe-trol') n. 1.  The act of moving about an area esp. by an authorized and trained person or group, for purposes of observation, inspection, or security."

As the ongoing series on this blog, "On the Skids in Carbon Canyon" has, it is humbly offered, amply demonstrated, there are regular occurrences of people leaving the roadway, presumably for several reasons, soem, maybe, innocent and truly accidental.  Amazingly, there hasn't been a fatality in quite some time, though property damage and injury continue to be part and parcel of said incidents.  Some spirited discussion has occurred already in said blog about the wisdom of wishing for more patrolling, on both the Brea and Chino Hills side.  Yet, CalTrans, at least, has had enough of a concern, at least on the San Bernardino County side (which has Measure I's sales tax revenue going for it), to make many additions to its package of protective materials in an effort to make the roadway safer.

The reality, though, is that the best deterrent is the presence of police authorities.  All the signage in the world will not adequately mitigate driving behavior.  If a person is drunk, or high, or just plain going too fast, they probably won't even be able to see or read the signs anyway.  And, because some local officials have actually said that "we can't be there 24/7" (the classic Rumsfeldian argument to rebut criticism in the early days of the Iraq war was the perfect analogue: "nobody's perfect"), isn't it possible that at least a regular, reoccuring, but not constant, patrolling at those times deemed most likely for unsafe driving (say, evenings and especially weekend evenings, as well as weekend days) could be considered? 

After all, when there was a flipped car here in Sleepy Hollow last fall at 10 p.m. on a weekend or when the drunken-slash-high young lad flew off the roadway across from my house back in January late on a weekend, there were several patrol cars on scene.  They had to have come from somewhere.  Couldn't one of them be asked to make the rounds in the Canyon on some of those evenings, just so folks might actually think that there are "patrols" made here from time to time (and not just for traffic scofflaws [scofflaws?!], but others who "scoff at the laws")?

Well, there it is, another long diatribe to flutter off into the ether (and maybe draw a cynical remark or two along the lines of "get over it, it's always been that way and always will be--stop your bellyaching.")  To compensate, let's talk a little history next time, eh?

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