A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Beth Underwood: All the smart lights in the world won’t help traffic if drivers don’t take responsibility

I recently read an article recapping Lexington mayoral candidates’ ideas for solving the out of control traffic issues we face here in Fayette County. And trust me, they are many and sordid. One wants to spend money on smart lights, the other wants to demand a fix from traffic engineers. While I’m oversimplifying their stances, you get the point.

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Neither, however, held drivers responsible, which seems to be one of our biggest problems. To that end, I’d like to offer my three-prong plan for getting a grip on local traffic. And since I won’t be running for mayor, I invite either candidate to pull from these ingenious solutions.

• First and foremost, stop texting from behind the wheel. Frankly, I’m shocked by the number of drivers who text while actively driving. And a note to all of you who think holding the phone at the top of the steering wheel gives you an advantage over regular texters. You aren’t fooling anyone. Act like you value your life and the lives of others and get off your cell phone. And for those of you who try to write War and Peace while stopped at a light? I’ve got a newsflash for you: That red light will change to green again—and it’ll happen a lot quicker than checking in on all your social media accounts will.

• Second, it’s only rain. The sky isn’t falling and those little raindrops aren’t apocalyptic explosives falling out of the clouds. Let’s try to keep it together, out there. Act like we’ve seen water before. And before you try to tell me how while bridges tend to freeze faster than roadways, I’d like to point out that only applies to bridges—and only when it’s below freezing outside. I’m just sayin’. We can do much better.

This last leg of the plan is one of the most crucial where those of us whose heads aren’t buried in our cell phones are concerned. It’s taking all the restraint I can muster to not issue this one in all caps:

• If you are driving below the speed limit… Get. In. The. Right. Lane. And stay there. Sunday drivers, I’m talking to you. I’m by no means suggesting you turn into a speed demon, mowing over everyone in your path. In fact, I don’t care how slow you go, as long as you stay in the right lane. Not as in right versus wrong lane, but right versus left lane. For the love of God, move over. Because doing 40 in a 55? That’s what road rage is made from. Not that I know.

I offer my plan with the knowledge that there are other measures the city can take to improve traffic flow. But let’s be real. One of the best ways to get this under control is to place the onus where it belongs — in the lap of every driver on the road, whether it’s in Lexington or Los Angeles. Otherwise, all the smart lights in the world won’t help us.

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Beth Underwood is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines. She shares stories of everyday life that entertain, inspire, and encourage others. Her books include Gravity, a narrative nonfiction account of a small group of Tennessee National Guardsmen, and Talk Bourbon to Me, a lighthearted look at Kentucky’s native spirit. Drop her a line at beth@bethwrightunderwood.com, or visit her website at bethwrightunderwood.com.

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