The Airbag and the Peculiar Case for Airbags
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Fri, 2 May 97 12:42:29 -0700
Subject: The Airbag and the Peculiar Case for Airbags
CERTIFIABLY INANE May 4, 1997
(c) Patrick C. Ross
A Peculiar Case For Airbags
Speaking of public stonings, I've decided that for someone
who has yet to turn 30, I've become quite the fuddy-duddy. My
gripe is perhaps a pedestrian one, although it certainly isn't to
pedestrians: I've noticed a dangerous rise in the sport of running
In downtown Washington, the abuse is so high that the
traffic signals appear to be serving as kitsch art deco. Maybe
when you spend all day wasting taxpayers' money passing a
commemorative declaring August to be National Nearsighted Butchers'
Awareness Month, you figure a trivial traffic light isn't worth
slowing down for in your rush to the fundraiser at the Zoroastrian
Look, I'm not a total prude on the subject. When I was in
high school I routinely ran a frustratingly long red light on my
way home from my girlfriend's house at 3 a.m. My feeling was that
since I had already broken my curfew, there was nothing a policeman
could do that was worse than the fate awaiting me at home. But
today's scofflaws run reds at 3 p.m., when there are actually other
cars on the road, some of which may be driven by someone who is
foolish enough to assume it's safe to enter the intersection on
green. It's almost like these red-light bandits are hoping to
contribute to our national debate by demonstrating in dramatic
fashion the fact that airbags really are life-savers.
I took my frustration to Flint Locke, a D.C. city council
member who has designs on the mayor's office. Still, such a
quixotic pursuit reminded me of PR's Rule # 56: The continuous
re-election of everyone's favorite crack user, D.C.'s Mayor Marion
Barry, begs for a constitutional amendment permitting the
revocation of an electorate's right to vote in cases of
"What D.C. needs," Locke shouted in his downtown office,
"is a 'zero-tolerance' crime policy like the one they adopted in
New York City."
This was the first time I had ever heard a local Washington
politician say the nation's capitol needed to be more like our
rival up Interstate 95. "Are you saying we currently have a 'high
"What we have," he replied, "is a misdirection of
resources. Our police officers are always saying they're too busy
investigating murders to pursue lesser criminals..."
"We certainly seem to have enough homicides to keep them
"Yes," he agreed, "but only a fraction of those murder
investigations ever lead to a conviction. Put 'em on cases they
can solve and prove in court, such as littering, jaywalking,
I hoped that last one included all those calls I get at
dinnertime asking for money to help the Fraternal Order of D.C. Law
Enforcement Officers. "How will targeting minor crimes help?" I
"Simple. If the police remove the permissive environment
that currently allows crime to fester, they'll be better able to
focus on the hardened criminals. And to do that, we'll need to
change the sentencing guidelines."
"To begin with, first-time offenders of traffic violations,
such as running a red light," he said in acknowledgment of my pet
peeve, "would face the chair."
My jaw dropped. And I thought my parents were tough.
As is often the case with politicians, I left Locke's
office more confused than I had been when I arrived. Locke's net
was being cast sufficiently wide to snare even the likes of
normally law-abiding little me; after all, at some stop signs I'm
a occasional practitioner of the "California" rolling stop. But I
still wanted a way to show these red-light runners what a menace
they are to the rest of us. Perhaps the city council could settle
on a lesser offense for moving violations, say, public stoning.
Now if only we could catch Marion Barry running a red.
"Lotsa laughs... Certifiably Inane lived up to its billing."
Wash. Post 6/27/96 review of this free weekly humor column
Certifiably Inane (C) Patrick Ross 1997
© 1997 Peter Langston