Through 11 years of writing a traffic-related column, I’ve read many a response to something I’ve been able to get into print. Sometimes it’s a criticism, sometimes it’s praise, and sometimes it’s just a comment, taking the topic a step farther.
When a reader makes an exceptional point, I want them to get credit for it. And if what they write is food for thought for others, let’s get it out there.
Here’s one by a reader named Robert, relating to my column this week on some poor driving habits, and on an accident in which a truck driver nearly rode his rig over a wall when, the trucker says, he was cut off by another vehicle:
“On Monday, ‘Jack’ wrote about near misses on I-35. Then, on Tuesday, I read about the trucker that said he was cut off by a driver and ended up hanging over the barrier on the interstate.
“I agree with Jack about drivers in Oklahoma. They don’t use their signals, or not in a manner that is useful (turns on a turn signal after a turn has begun).
“The other is the risky maneuvers a lot of drivers take when driving. I have observed this in the multiple lane changes people make on northbound I-35 between SE 82 and the I-240 interchange. As you know, I-35 becomes four lanes between SE 82 and I-240, with the fourth lane actually being a nice long entrance ramp from SE 82 and becoming the exit ramp onto I-240.
“For years, I drove this northbound route and would exit at SE 66 … (N)early every day, I would see drivers use the inside ‘fast’ lanes and … cut across two or three lanes after they went under the 82nd Street bridge to barely make it onto the I-240 ramp, which would cause near panic stops for the trailing traffic. This would cause an accordion effect that would continue back beyond SE 82nd and back to the N 27th St bridge in Moore and often causes rear-end collisions.
“This isn’t necessarily road rage but looks like people trying to ‘out guess’ or ‘beat’ the slower exiting traffic. This just makes things worse for all lanes of traffic that they cut across as people brake to avoid this maneuver.
“If these people are in a hurry or late, they should leave home earlier. But, since you can’t make people adjust their schedules, they should have their bank accounts adjusted. The police (motorcycle officer) could sit on the east side of the divider at the 240 off-ramp and … watch these people make these wild lane changes, which I presume are illegal, and ticket them for that and not using a turn signal.
“He (the officer) wouldn’t be seen because of the SE 82 bridge until it was too late. I’ve seen them there before, giving out speeding tickets for the northbound I-35 traffic.
“I am not trying to point out the southside drivers more than other areas of the city, but it is where I drive the most. I have seen this behavior on all sides of the city, such as the I-40/I-44 interchanges, I-44/I-235 interchange, I-40/I-35 interchange.
“From the account from the trucker. it sounds as though this behavior is what caused his accident. Maybe the police and (highway patrol) troopers should take this as a message to be more aware of this driver behavior and take some actions to reduce it and/or to make the public more aware of it and the consequences.”
Thanks for the note, Robert. And thanks to all who correspond with me, or converse with me, about driving or transportation issues.
You can see my Traffic Talk column by going to any of our online communities at http://knowit.newsok.com each week.
No one wants to hear the knock on the door, then answer it and get the horrible news from someone on the other side that a loved one has been killed in an automobile accident.
That’s one reason a special effort — “Drive Sobert or Get Pulled Over — begins today. Area law enforcement, community and business groups, as well as others will mobilize with a “Stop the Knock” message at 10 a.m.
The site will be 12500 Cobblestone Parkway in Oklahoma City as representatives of the aforementioned groups gather. The event will be hosted by the Metro Area Traffic Safety Council and it will officially kick off Oklahoma’s participation in the national effort, which will run through Sept. 5.
Sgt. Dale Lewis of the University of Oklahoma Police Department, is a co-organizer and serves at Metro Area Traffic Safety Council chairman.
“Knocking on someone’s door and telling them that a family member has died in a DUI crash is one of the hardest parts of a law enforcement officer’s job,” Lewis said earlier this week in a news release. “Drunk driving is a crime, not an accident, and by cracking down on impaired drivers, we’re saving lives.”
The news media and other participants will hear Capt. Chris West, of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol; Pottawatomie County Sheriff Mike Booth; and Sherri Rogers, who lost a family member in a DUI crash
The organizers are hopeful everyone will get the message. To that end, they note these numbers:
* In 2010 in Oklahoma, 6,549 drivers were involved in alcohol-related crashes.
*These crashes resulted in 245 fatalities.
* In 2009 in the nation, more than 10,800 people were killed in crashes involving a driver or motorcycle rider with a blood-alcohol level of .08 g/dL or higher, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These are higher than legal amounts.
Those numbers certainly will make you think about the effects of drinking on driving.
The “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” message, created in 2011 by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, is replacing the “Drunk Driving: Over the Limit, Under Arrest” slogan from previous years in many states.
Fewer words, more effort.
For more on addiction and/or drinking-related issues, or to seek assistance, go to http://knowit.newsok.com/addiction-Oklahoma
There are some visitors you just don’t want. Especially when they are green, with four long legs, antennae and bulging eyes.
Before you think I’ve lost it entirely and am seeing aliens … let me assure you, I’m not.
I haven’t been hitting the bottle, I’m not smoking something funny, I don’t shoot up and I don’t snort … other than in my sleep, or if I get real tickled.
I’m talking about grasshoppers. Big, fat, juicy ones. The kind that leap off the lawn furniture, flutter their wings, then land on you and attach to your clothing. They can grasp the material so tightly that they become very difficult to remove.
They can be quite a nuisance. A plague. It says so in the Bible. I’ve read it.
When I heard and read recently that the current drought was causing these generally rural creatures to change their addresses and move into the cities, looking for food, I wasn’t all that concerned. We live far enough in, I thought, that it wouldn’t be a problem. Besides, I hadn’t seen a grasshopper at our house in, well, I couldn’t remember when.
That all changed this morning.
Around dawn, I went out onto our patio and deck to get a feel for the weather conditions as I got ready for work. It was still a bit dark, with only the slightest of light in the east, so I turned on the patio light before I walked outside.
I took three or four steps out onto the deck, then spotted something on the corner of the swing. When I got closer, I noticed the eye and the movement of the antennae. Then, the whole body turned … toward me.
I checked around, but didn’t see others. One grasshopper an army does not make. It’s not time to head to the local lawn and garden store to purchase a spray. No need to break out the flamethrower. They’re not filling the air as they assault my lawn or outdoor plants.
But I’m going to keep an eye on the situation. I just hope I don’t dream about grasshopper invasions.
Read more about the grasshopper situation, and about Oklahoma’s weather conditions, by going to http://knowit.newsok.com/severe-weather-oklahoma
To all those who have found no redeeming aspect of social networking: here’s a little story for you.
As severe weather Monday evening rolled through Oklahoma, it quickly became apparent there was a dangerous situation developing. The storms produced high winds, frequent lightning, heavy rain (though generally brief) and sometimes hail.
Even in the early reports from those who make their livings forecasting, tracking and evaluating storms, it was very apparent that Oklahoma winds were causing devastation once again. When you live here, you expect it. It’s even in our state song: “Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain … ”
But Oklahoma wind often is devastating, such as it was Monday night.
And so it was that I joined a group of current and former Ponca City and Enid residents in discussing what was happening in those areas. We hooked up on Facebook and began sharing information we were collecting from various sources, newspaper and TV web sites to wire services, from local police and fire departments to weather observers, and from residents themselves … those who still had electrical service or phones that allowed them to access the social network.
Over the course of the next three to four hours, we were able to get updates relating to communities within a large grid that was bounded roughly on the west from Meno south to Lawton, on the north from Meno to Ponca City, on the east from Ponca City to Ada, and from the south from Ada to Lawton. That’s a pretty fair chunk of real estate, if you check the map.
We were able to update each other on conditions and situations within that area, with all of us having family and friends in that grid. And here’s an interesting note. Some of those contributing weren’t even close to the storm-damaged area. One was in Florida, a couple in Texas, one in Kansas. They were communicating with their contacts in the “danger zone” whenever they could get through, then passing along the information.
The information these people collected and shared was helpful to those who lost power (such as near and in Enid, Ponca City, Perry, Stillwater, Piedmont and some parts of the Oklahoma City metro). Plus, the Facebooks sites for electric cooperatives and municipal governments were putting out updates and notices quickly. This information was relayed to those who could not sign on.
At one point, some 30 or so people were conversing and assisting. It was, indeed a joint effort. A good one. A beneficial one.
So next time you hear someone bashing the ridiculous, extreme use of social networking, remember the positives and ride out the storm.
See updates on the weather situation in Oklahoma on http://knowit.newsok.com/severe-weather-oklahoma
It has become one of the most feared words of the summer in our state: wildfire.
Thousands of acres of dry Oklahoma landscape have burned the past three months, including the parched vegetation that was destroyed or damaged last weekend. Forecasters say precipitation possibilities don’t look much more favorable — if at all — for the next two or three months.
There may be rain, but don’t expect there to be enough of it to end the severe drought conditions that have turned much of the state into a disaster area, weather officials say.
That’s not good news, and it requires all of us to exercise more caution when handling anything that could spark or accelerate a fire outside.
At least one of three wildfires last weekend likely originated with cigarettes, investigators say. A fire north and east of Edmond that began Thursday and rekindled a couple of times was almost certainly due to discarded smoking materials. That blaze destroyed seven homes and heavily damaged several others, as well as outbuildings and other items.
Fortunately, there were no deaths or serious injuries.
Firefighters also battled blazes near Asher, Mannford and Cleveland, OK, that required assistance from the Oklahoma National Guard, which provided water drops.
The fire near Asher burned several hundred acress, while a large blaze near Mannford spread through more than 2,000 acres.
Drought conditions and excessive heat have combined to put Oklahoma in this danger zone, weather officials said. The National Weather Service on Monday issued a fire weather watch for 47 counties in western, central and easter Oklahoma. This includes four of the state’s most populous counties: Cleveland and Oklahoma (Oklahoma City metro area), Tulsa (Tulsa metro), Comanche (Lawton and surrounding area) and Garfield (Enid area). It also included Jackson (Altus area), Kay (Ponca City area) and Pittsburg (McAlester area).
The weather service says the fire weather watch was issued because southwest winds of 20 mph with gusts of up to 30 mph were possible. These conditions can help a fire spread rapidly. Meanwhile, all of the state remains under a burn ban, barring outdoor burning that is not in a contained fixture.
Many cities and towns also are under water use guidelines, such as those around central Oklahoma that use Oklahoma City water. These locations are on an even-odd system — watering allowed on even days for even-number house addresses; odd days for odd-number addresses.
But fire prevention remains a need for all. A casually discarded cigarette can cause a massive, destructive fire. A spark from an outdoor fire torch or pit can start a large blaze.
We all can help avoid these situations by doing our parts.
See more on the fire problem and Oklahoma’s severe weather situation by going to http://knowit.newsok.com/severe-weather-oklahoma
High temperatures will bring out the worst in all of us, medical experts say. Apparently, that happens in more ways than one.
It has been scientifically proven that excessive heat can and often does lead to anger. Emotions and tempers are on edge, with even the smallest, least significant event setting them off.
Here’s an “event” that caused me to boil, and it isn’t such a little one.
A large grassfire Tuesday on the southeast side of Oklahoma City burned a chunk of property and forced firefighters and residents out into the 107-degree (or higher) heat. With the recent lack of rainfall and with water a hot commodity, the fear was that the blaze would spread quickly through parched land and neighborhoods.
After a lengthy battle, firefighters were able to knock down the blaze. But then the story emerged of a man trying to take advantage of the situation and preying upon victims in the area.
The man, posing as an American Red Cross volunteer, offered the water to those on the fire scene and surrounding area … for $7 a bottle.
Luckily, the word on this man spread like wildfire. His discription was circulated quickly: an older white male with a white beard, in a dark-colored pickup. He also was wearing sunglasses and tan-colored pants.
And get this. He also wore a T-shirt with “Give Blood” on it.
Rusty Surrette from the Red Cross sent out an alert to news media, asking that anyone who sees this man should call his organization at 202-0010 with details, including an updated description. As Surrette noted, “Red Cross disaster assistance is always free … ”
Here’s an example of someone trying to take advantage of a disadvantage to serve his own needs or wants. What some people won’t do to try to turn a buck, even if it’s misrepresentation to the max.
If you can help identify this person, please do. And go to http://knowit.newsok.com/charity-oklahoma to see how you can help those in need … legitimately.
We thought we had seen her for the last time. Our son’s aging golden retriever was missing. Her arthritic hip, poor hearing and bad eyesight certainly weren’t in her favor. Plus, with temperatures consistently at or above 105 degrees, we knew she was going to have to have water to survive.
It didn’t look good when we learned she and her much-younger playmate — a sleek, black, lab mix — had made their escape from our vacationing son’s backyard. How they got out remains a mystery. There was no sign of digging, no boards gapped wide enough they could get through, no short fences to jump over, and the latch on the side gate was closed. The only thing for certain was that they were gone.
The golden had been a part of our lives for 12 years. Our son got her as a pup, and I can still remember when he brought her home. She was a long-legged, active, slobbering but incredibly friendly puppy that loved to be right up against you and wagged her tail rapidly at any sign of attention.
Early on, she had a tick problem, resulting from the rural setting in which she was born. But repeated treatments and baths, which she actually never seemed to mind, did their job. Our granddaughter, little more than a toddler at that point, named her. The reddish-blond, golden retriever became “Blue.”
If you’ve ever had a golden, you know that they love people. Blue was no exception. And as she grew bigger, she became even more so. If you were on the floor, or anywhere she could get near you, you could count on her being there. And a dog that large puts off lots of heat. No problem in colder weather, but in the summer months, she could be quite warm.
She loved attention, loved to play. She loved to mother smaller dogs, letting them crawl over her as she laid on her side and using her big paws to playfully knock them around or cuddle them.
It wasn’t long after son and his family moved to their new house that they got the lab mix. This pup was more active than Blue, who was beginning to show signs of her age. The “newcomer” — Micco — also was very curious. It may have been that curiosity, years later, that led to the disappearance.
A friend who had been feeding and watering them, noticed that they were missing. Throughout the day and into the night, we searched unsuccessfully. We made signs describing the pair and giving our phone number, placing them with other such notices in the area. But we feared the heat would take its toll, particularly on the older Blue.
The next morning, the phone rang. It was a man named Bennie, who lived about a half-mile from our son’s home, who had seen one of our signs. He asked if one of the dogs was named Blue, which he had seen on her collar. He said he had found them about 36 hours earlier, wandering down the street.
After getting the pertinent information, I drove over and got the story from Bennie and his wife, Suzie, two wonderful people who love animals. They had cared for the dogs, cleaned them up, fed and watered them, while repeatedly calling the owner’s number. Bennie said that when he saw the sign, he knew it had to be the two dogs they had found.
When they opened their side gate and we called their names, the “escapees” came running. They were ready to go home and I think they realized this “adventure” was over.
We’re very thankful Bennie and Suzy found Blue and Micco. It was our good fortune to have people who care about animals find them. And, as I told them, it made some people very happy to know their pets were safe.
You sure can get attached to a pet, even if it isn’t yours.
Learn more about pets and how to take care of them at http://knowit.newsok.com/pets-Oklahoma