“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that.
Can’t you read the sign?”
–Five Man Electrical Band
Why all the signs telling us what to do? Well, I suppose that somebody has to, or we would be living in chaos, but who are those somebodies deciding what the limits are?
Road signs, which go all the way back to the Roman empire, were originally made of wood or stone. The Romans also used roadside columns to indicate how many miles to Rome.1
Over the course of time and with the invention of the automobile, more signs were necessary, which eventually led to speed limits which caused the Italian Touring Club in 1895 to lobby for the improvement of road signs.2
Later, in 1899, according to the United States Department of Transportation, a group of people who owned automobiles met in New York City, New York, to discuss road signs to provide drivers with more information about direction and their destination. This meeting would be the first of many to make traveling by car safer.3
Colors were then designated to signs so that people would easily be able to discern what the signs indicated, such as red for “stop” and green for “proceed with caution.”
As more people drove, the need for driver’s education courses became pressing. The first in the U.S. who developed a course in driver’s education as well as how to maintain a vehicle was at State College Area School District at Penn State in 1935.4
That did not stop folks from driving while intoxicated, so this problem led to the implementation of laws against drinking and driving. New York was the first state to enforce these laws, and in 1910, California would soon follow along with the other states after that.5
In 1936 a professor of toxicology and biochemistry at the University of Indiana, patented a device he called the “Drunkometer,” and this was followed in 1938 when the American Medical Association and the National Safety Council agreed that the blood alcohol limit of any driver should not exceed 0.15 percent.
Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) was born from a tragedy in 1980, and the group began its fight for tougher legislation against drivers who exceeded the alcohol limit, especially for those with prior offenses.6
By the year 2008, the blood alcohol limit considered in order to safely drive a vehicle was reduced to 0.08%.7
We complain about limits and oftentimes want to exceed them. This is common human behavior, but there can be severe penalties and hefty prices we pay, including death, for that excessive behavior.
“Another sign … reminded drivers to slow down, reading ‘35 mph — it’s a speed limit, not a suggestion.’”8
Limits and signs may oftentimes feel like a nuisance, but they are loving reminders meant to keep us safe.
Parents must set limits for their children to keep them from harm.
Amusement parks set limits so we won’t lose our arms.
Elevators have limits so we can go up and down.
Some counties have zoning restrictions to preserve towns.
Highways and roads have limits so we arrive in one piece.
Landlords have restrictions, enforced by a lease.
There are signs that intend to direct and signs to correct.
There are limitations for the length of a speech and limits as to how much we need to eat.
There are maximums and there are minimums and even water restrictions for your chrysanthemums.
There are limits as to how one may protest and restrictions for one who is under house arrest.
There are limits to anger so keep your composure, and double yellow lines also mean don’t crossover.
There are limits on what you can say to someone and restrictions regarding too much fun.
Weight limits and lifting weights.
Plating food and carrying plates.
Spinning, climbing, watching TV.
How many ornaments you put on the tree
Limitations may provoke aggravation and restraints may bring on complaints, but without rules we would have no order, no lines of demarcation, and no borders.
Limitations we very much need to heed,
but there is one exception,
to love one another with genuine affection.
1 @Allstate. “A History of Street Signs.” The Allstate Blog. 2016. Accessed September 20, 2016. https://blog.allstate.com/from-rome-to-detroit-a-history-of-street-signs/.
4 “State College Area School District.” History/Driver’s Education Course. Accessed September 20, 2016. http://www.scasd.org/Page/826.
5 @LifeSafer. “The History of Drunk Driving Laws in the U.S. • LifeSafer.” LifeSafer Ignition Interlock. 2015. Accessed September 20, 2016. https://www.lifesafer.com/blog/the-history-of-drunk-driving-laws-in-the-u-s/.
8 “Apps and Street Signs to Get People to Stop Texting and ...” Accessed September 20, 2016. http://www.techinsider.io/apps-and-street-signs-to-get-people-to-stop-texting-and-walking-2016-2.
Paying Attention Or Paying the Price?
“Each day in the United States, over 8 people are killed and 1,161 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.”1 Distractions while driving include eating, daydreaming, taking your hands off the wheel, and, one that has been buzzing since its invention, using a cell phone.
Distractions occur not only when you are driving. Even being distracted while walking, such as texting or having a conversation on the phone, has become dangerous A video on YouTube shows a man dressed in a gorilla suit being completely overlooked by individuals who are texting on their phones. However, other people were not texting and noticed him. Take a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tm2lfv3_ELc.
In his article, “Texting While Walking Isn’t Funny Anymore”, Geoffrey A. Fowler explains that there is a guard at the entrance of a parking structure next to his office who intervenes when pedestrians who are texting while walking do not notice the traffic around them.2
Recently, while driving home, I was slowing down as I approached a stop sign. I saw a woman walking and texting and noticed that she was wearing earphones. Not only was she oblivious to watching her steps, but also she was unable to hear a car approaching.
I was at a complete stop as she walked towards me. I had my hand on the horn and was just about to beep when she noticed she was about to walk into my car. To my surprise, that did not make her look up or cause her to take out the earphones or stop texting while walking. She narrowly avoided my car, and as I looked in my rearview mirror, I saw she was drifting side to side in the middle of the street.
Technology is constantly changing, and I trust that most of us would agree that it has improved our lifestyles on many levels, with cell phones being just one of the many useful gadgets birthed from advances, but the abuse of the cell phone does not make the cell phone the evil culprit. To claim that is like proclaiming that because a hammer was used to kill someone, that all hammers should be labeled “lethal weapons.”
The problem of irresponsible cell phone usage has inspired people to find solutions. Some have developed apps to send signals to pedestrians to look up from time to time if they are using their phones while walking and especially while entering an intersection or crossing a street. Another company developed shoe sensors to warn “users” within two steps that they have stepped into the street.3
Designers Jacob Sempler and Emil Tiismann in Stockholm devised signs that show people walking and texting as an actual street sign to warn drivers to be on the watch for walking texters, and in 2015, in Hayward, California, “seven snarky signs” have been installed. One reads “Heads up! Cross the street, then update Facebook.”4
I find it interesting that the term applied to those inseparable from their cell phones is “users,” a word associated with addicts, and like any other form of addiction, this too has become yet another mode of distraction, directing one’s attention to a self-serving purpose.
Multitasking, theoretically, suggests that we humans can do many things at once, efficiently but with statistics proving otherwise, multitasking is really shifting your attention from one task to another, swiftly. But not for everyone!
Paying attention to our surroundings while driving, walking or using the cell phone may reduce the chances of or paying the price of accidents and pedestrian injuries.
Paying attention is most important. Not only just for one’s self-preservation, but for the preservation of others.
Love includes the safety for all!
1 “Distracted Driving.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2016. Accessed August 27, 2016. http://www.cdc.gov/Motorvehiclesafety/Distracted_Driving/index.html.
2 Fowler, Geoffrey A. “Texting While Walking Isn't Funny Anymore.” WSJ. Accessed August 27, 2016. http://www.wsj.com/articles/texting-while-walking-isnt-funny-anymore-1455734501.
4 Garfield, Leanna. “7 Innovations to Get People to Stop Texting While Walking.” Business Insider. 2016. Accessed August 27, 2016. http://www.businessinsider.com/apps-and-street-signs-to-get-people-to-stop-texting-and-walking-2016-2.