Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I urge NO on any ban on cell phone use while driving

I just sent the following message to my state legislators.

To: Senator Greg Walker; Representative Sean Eberhart
Cc: Representative Eric Allan Koch; Representative Milo Smith
Sent: Wed, 27 Jan 2010, 1:32 pm EST
Subject: I urge NO on any ban on cell phone use while driving

Thank you for your service to the citizens of Indiana.

I urge you to vote NO on any measure to criminalize the use of cell phones or other electronic devices while driving.

I am all for holding each driver in Indiana accountable for controlling his vehicle in as safe a manner as possible, and punishing any who carelessly or recklessly cause personal or property damage while operating a motor vehicle.

I am opposed to trying to micromanage the Indiana driver by criminalizing, before the fact, specific types of potentially-risky driving behavior.

I know this is a somewhat trendy and politically-popular form of legislation, but I urge you to resist it.

As the following link points out, distracted drivers are a leading cause of motor vehicle accidents.

Distracted Drivers Cause Motor Vehicle Accidents - Smart Motorist

Many of the factors contributing to driver distraction and accidents which are listed in this article have been around a lot longer than the cell phone.

To be consistent in micromanaging our state's drivers, the legislature would need to start working their way through the list of risky behaviors. E.g., drinking, eating, adjusting the radio, picking up something that has fallen on the floor, having an argument with a passenger, driving with too little rest, checking the map, looking at the GPS screen, using a laptop computer (i.e., police officers), adjusting the climate control, reading, shaving, applying make-up, combing hair, anger at other drivers or traffic conditions.

It would be inconsistent to skip any of these that are as risky as responsible cell phone use, but a number of items on this list would be politically quite a bit less popular to be prohibited than cell phone use.

I urge you to stay away from this slippery slope.

Just hold drivers accountable for their results and leave it to each driver to determine the most practical means of arriving safely at his destination.

Bill Starr
Columbus, Indiana

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Man uses stun gun during downtown Columbus fight

The local paper reports today that a local man was arrested for using a stun gun during a fight.

He was charged with battery with a deadly weapon, a Class C felony.

Funny how it's a "deadly weapon" in "civilian" hands, but law enforcement and the manufacturer promote the stun gun as being in the "less than lethal" category.

Man uses stun gun during downtown Columbus fight

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Why Indiana children wait for the school bus in the dark

After reading a couple of recent letters to the editor from fellow Hoosiers, I remembered that I wanted to do an update corresponding to my "earliest sunset of the year" post on December 7.

In the South Bend Tribune on January 12 (When will Indiana students see the light?), Angela Warren-Manns wrote:

"I am concerned for my son who has to be out in the dark to go to school in the morning. This is bizarre for us because where we are from in New Jersey, it is light outside around 7 a.m. We have also lived in Texas, California and Maryland and they are also the same as New Jersey: light around 7 a.m. It just doesn't make sense to me that Indiana is on Eastern time. The sun certainly does not agree with it."

Ms. Warren-Manns is quite correct. The average sunrise time for places due east and west of South Bend on January 12 is 7:25 am. Civil twilight (when there is sufficient natural light for terrestrial objects to be clearly distinguished) is about 7 am this time of year for places in the geographically correct time zone.

In the Montgomery County (Crawfordsville) newspaper (Who makes decision on delays, closing?), Buddy Posthauer writes:

"My daughter has not had very much experience driving under these conditions... She could have taken the bus which picks her up about one hour earlier than when she drives, which it is pitch dark, and although this is not the schools fault, thanks to the time change, no child should be standing along side a busy and dangerous highway in the dark, even if the weather is good. It was just a few years ago I could not leave for work on time because a gentleman lost his life after a head on collision right where the kids have to stand in the dark to wait on the bus, which is much more dangerous in bad weather."

What both of these letters have in common is that they highlight the increased risk to Indiana children on their way to school this time of year because of observing eastern time.

Except for a few counties in the northwest and southwest corners, all of Indiana has been in the geographically incorrect eastern time zone since the 1960s.

January 4 marks the latest sunrise of the year.

The natural clock time (aka Local Mean Time) for sunrise in Indianapolis on January 4 is 7:22 am. This would be the sunrise time on January 4 if Indianapolis had ended up at the middle of a time zone like Philadelphia or Peoria did.

The table below compares the sunrise time on January 4 in Indianapolis with other United States cities located in their geographically-correct time zone.

On eastern time, Indy sticks out from the pack like a sore thumb. It will be back in the normal range again whenever Indiana goes back to central time.

Sunrise times on Monday, 4 January 2010

8:06, Indianapolis (eastern time)

7:23, Philadelphia (middle of eastern time zone)
7:23, Peoria (middle of central time zone)
7:21, Denver (middle of mountain time zone)
7:20, Reno (middle of Pacific time zone)
7:20, New York City
7:18, Chicago
7:14, Boston
7:06, Indianapolis (if returned back to central time)
6:59, Nashville TN (nearly due south of Indy)
6:52, Las Vegas