Saturday, December 22, 2012

Safety and Security

On an extremely local level, there seems to be a never-ending run of people who push safety as a value overshadowing all others.  In Washington, this manifests itself in pedestrians striding in front of traffic against the light, secure in their attitude that every driver will inevitably stop for them.  The D.C. Department of Transportation encourages this attitude by putting signs in the middle of the road warning drivers to stop at every crosswalk.  This department has always made little secret that its denizens hate cars and will do everything possible to make life miserable for motorists.

When right turn on red first was advanced as a time-saver, the then-director of this department ran around D.C. posting no-turn-on-red signs at every conceivable location.  Now this department responds to local loudmouths who demand speed humps so we have those scattered all over the city. The signs warning of them are posted adjacent to the hump so by the time you see it, you have smacked the underside of your car.

Safety laws--most of which are totally unnecessary--are introduced as innocent-seeming rules which then are turned into strictly-enforced enactments and revenue producers.  So it is with speed cameras--we first were told they were for safety; when everyone recognized that the fines were set at absurdly high levels, the Mayor and Council responded with revenue concerns.  This was also true of seat belts. Recall that police were not to stop anyone for a mere seat belt infraction. Now we are subjected to "click it or ticket" threats from police who would prefer to stop seat-belt violators than pursue homicide or robbery suspects.

This trend also underlies the never-ending pursuit of total security. Some administrators have realized that you can't guarantee total security and you can go broke trying to get it.  The security industry is happy to recommend more and more expenditure, of course. So federal bureaucrats whom no one wants to visit much less commit acts of violence against are protected by magnetometers and other fancy equipment.

The problem for someone in charge of a facility is the uproar he or she will face if an incident occurs. Media and others along for the ride will always jump on anyone who doesn't spend their entire budget on augmented security.  And you can spend your whole budget on it--easily.  

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