Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sometimes you can't do nothing #3

Locally our summer labor force includes several hundred (I guess) international students. They come from all over the planet to work in the US, enjoy what we have to offer and to learn our culture.

Unfortunately some come here to either be killed or seriously maimed on our roads. Each summer accidents involving international students occur primarily because these young adults have not learned our laws or our culture as it pertains to traffic.

In Europe (where most of these students are from) bicycles and automobiles function together in a kind of chaotic harmony. If you've been to Europe you know what I mean. There are probably more bicycles on the roads than cars. But that's not so here in the US. And in a traffic heavy resort community where the majority of drivers are not local and are unfamiliar at best with addresses and locations, adding foreign bicyclers to the mix is an often deadly recipe.

American drivers are not accustomed to sharing the road with bicyclists. Ask any American biker. They understand that riding on the shoulder can be a toxic exercise. And when the road is US 158, a "highway" with a speed limit of 50MPH and 5 lanes of traffic, the dangers are multiplied.

Our internationals haven't learned the dangers. You can see them riding bikes, going against traffic (which is illegal) on narrow shoulders or in the right lane, at at any time, 24 hours a day. Many of them walk to work and home, and will cross a dangerous highway without the aid of a crosswalk or traffic light.

Two weeks ago another young eastern European student was seriously injured and had to be flown by helicopter to the nearest trauma center, which is 80 miles away. She probably didn't know what she was doing was foolish at best and life threatening at worst. Fortunately she survived. Barely.

I'm tired of seeing and hearing of these accidents. I'm tired of responding to them as a public safety chaplain. But being tired doesn't help lessen the carnage. So I'm moved to action. Once the dust settles a bit around here (meaning we're past summer) I plan to take steps to initiate some kind of bicycle/pedestrian safety training for these young people.

Hopefully the local businesses that employ them will get on board, as well as the police departments of our towns. But we've seen enough of them die or have their lives permanently altered because their ignorance of our laws and culture. Somebody's got to get the word out to them.

it might as well be me who is part of the solution.

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