Friday, 19 September 2003

Sometime Around the Bend, An End to Drunk Driving

An end, not because we're abstaining but because technology in our smarter and smarter cars is going to one day take away the option of putting our foot on the gas pedal when intoxicated. Personal responsibility assumed by a machine...

The research represents a partnership between the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS), the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS), and the National Highway Safety Administration. Since 2008, it's been going strong, taking two different approaches to the problem of drunk drivers:

Breath: Sensors mounted in front of the driver will "measure the concentration of carbon dioxide and ethanol molecules being exhaled." Hit a certain ratio between the two, and the car won't start.

Touch: When a driver hits the start button or some other specially designed surface, the touch pad will identify chemical properties in the skin, including ethanol levels. If they measure 0.08% or more, the car won't start.
Wow, right? But all this science fiction tech will be offered only as an optional safety feature, instead of being installed on all cars as required by law. Know, too, that it won't be ready for prime time until 2020 at the earliest. None too soon, however, given that every day, almost 30 people die in this country because of an alcohol-impaired driver. In other words, one such death occurs every 51 minutes. And drunk driving is costly, too, amounting to more than $59 billion that tax payers have to shell out every year.

Then there are these grim statistics:

In 2013, 10,076 people died in alcohol-related car crashes, representing 31% of all traffic deaths.
Of the 1,149 children killed in traffic accidents, 17% involved drunken drivers.
In 2010 alone, more than 1.4 million drivers were arrested for being alcohol-impaired.
The picture is no brighter in Pennsylvania. For starters, drunk driving has recently resulted in the deaths of 368 people. That translates to 30.5% of all the traffic deaths that have occurred here this year. Then there are these state-wide facts:

There were 7,900 alcohol-related crash injuries involving drivers with a 0.1 BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) or higher.
There were 11,041 alcohol-related crashes involving drivers with a 0.1 BAC or higher.
64,024 Pennsylvanians were recently arrested for DUI (Driving Under the Influence).
The cost to us tax payers who must subsidize drunk driving fatalities in the commonwealth: $1.9 billion.
And that's not an end to the bad news in Pennsylvania. That's because our kids are following in our footsteps. In fact, it's been determined that in just one recent month, 28.30% of our 12- to 20-year-olds drank alcohol; in other words, 445,000 of them.

As for the binge drinking that makes headlines from time-to-time? Those numbers are unsettling, too, with 18.70% of that same age group recently engaging in such behavior, adding up to 294,000 of them.

Now imagine what the roads will look like if recreational marijuana is legalized here as is hoped by many, including some of our legislators. As it is-and unlike a number of states--Pennsylvania already has eight alcohol-related laws on the books to help, and here they all are:

Vehicular homicide laws establish penalties for drunk drivers who cause a fatality.

Social host laws hold adults accountable for supplying alcohol to the under-21 set.

Sobriety checkpoints allow police to stop folks along their routes if suspected of being intoxicated-or not.

Mandatory Alcohol Assessment/Treatment laws are in place so that those convicted of driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated (DWI) can be assessed for alcohol abuse issues and receive treatment.

Ignition interlock statutes allow judges or administrative agencies to install an interlock ignition device on the cars of those convicted of drunk driving for a certain period of time.

DUI child endangerment statutes allow additional penalties to be placed on those convicted of drunk driving with a child on board.

Dram shop laws can hold establishments liable for selling alcohol to obviously intoxicated adults or minors who cause either death or injury to others in alcohol-related crashes.

The .08 per se law makes it illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher.
And so it goes. We'll just have to wait for the technology to catch up with our drinking habits, and, in the meantime, hope that most folks will, if not abstain, know when to stop or, at the very least, hand their keys to a sober friend or call a cab...

Carol is a learning specialist who worked with middle school children and their parents at the Methacton School District in Pennsylvania for more than 25 years and now supervises student teachers at Gwynedd-Mercy University and Ursinus College. Along with the booklet, 149 Parenting School-Wise Tips: Intermediate Grades & Up, and numerous articles in such publications as Teaching Pre-K-8 and Curious Parents, she has authored three successful learning guidebooks: Getting School-Wise: A Student Guidebook, Other-Wise and School-Wise: A Parent Guidebook, and ESL Activities for Every Month of the School Year. 

Wednesday, 11 June 2003

Courts Count for the Quality of Your Community

I recently attended a conference on the essential qualities resulting from the best-planned, best organized communities. Items like affordable housing and recreational opportunities immediately came to mind. People need shelter that matches a budget and they need recreational opportunities for health and exercise as well as places to visit like parks, lakes, or rose or vegetable gardens. One of the guest speakers, a local judge, added that good communities also have an excellent court system.

Of course, the safety of a community arises from sound law enforcement and a fair judicial system. If officers are out and about in a community, with their eye out for the well being of citizens, those who live in a community are able to feel secure and live knowing that they are safe. Whether they are in their backyard for a barbecue or out for a walk through the neighborhood, knowing officers are on duty is a priority is reassuring that a community is protected. And, I believe, safety breeds safety just as dangerous neighborhoods so often breed danger.

When laws are broken it is critical that the judicial system is in top working order. It makes no sense to arrest or charge willy-nilly, but rather with the best intentions and the best plans for the safety of a community. Officers who are brash are often as dangerous as the criminals they are looking for just as officers who enjoy donuts and coffee more than patrolling and keeping an eye on a community, do not fulfill the commitment and responsibilities of their job. I just want things in my community to be fair, with citizens served with honesty and trustworthiness. Living in a small town I have the advantage of knowing most of our officers. I admire their dedication to their job and those of us who live there. I know that if I ever need help they will be on the scene in a flash to assist me.

From the work of these officers those who have or who allegedly have broken laws appear before a judge. The judge provides probably the most important factor in maintaining the safety of a community. As not all cases are cut-and-dried, it is invaluable that the judge be able to examine each case in an individual fashion. Sometimes bad things just seem to happen while at other times crimes are perpetrated. The judge has to see through all of this and then determine a punishment that is fair and that also serves as a life-long deterrent. If the judge is too lax, the criminal is very likely to become a courtroom regular; if the judge is too severe, a person's life can end up dedicated to the four walls of a cell.

Yes, our speaker is absolutely correct: The courts of a community, regulated by the judge or judges of that community, do count for the quality of the community and thus the safety and security of every resident. I thank my local judges for their wisdom and devotion. They do make a very positive difference.

Friday, 6 June 2003

Humans and Humanity

What are the critical elements that make us human? Do these elements transpond time and space, cultures and continents, communities, families? We breath the same air, occupy the same planet, live and die, but beyond these how similar are we? Genetics play a grand role in determining our human characteristics such as hair and eye color, stature, other physical traits along with many capabilities such as brainpower and physical dexterity. Our environment also plays a special role. Where we were born, the time frame, our parents and extended family begin us on our journey and then comes all of the other potential encounters and experiences. It is nature versus nurture and so much more.

Our humanity is influenced by the civilization in which we live, the morality and mortality factors that affect our lives and living, the human condition that surrounds us, and the variables of life. Humanity is also the characteristic that presents itself through our kindness, compassion, and sympathy for others. Having been brought up in a loving, two-parent home, with terrific sisters as role models, I was taught to love the out-of-doors and nature, physical fitness, and education, my family and friends, and to live with generosity and goodness toward others. Because my family likes each other, we can also love each other, forgiving the errors we make and embracing the wonders of family. I think this solid foundation of mutual respect set up much of the personal life I live now.

Because of my upbringing and experiences, I model my behavior in certain ways but I also know that others live differently and I work hard to accept that that is their right. While I feel relief that I never was put in a situation where I needed to consider an abortion, I respect that that is a decision that others might make. I live in a loving heterosexual relationship but I understand that others might desire to live in a different style. As a woman I have freedom to go and do and choose, but I realize that this is not true everywhere in the world and while this is hard to accept, I appreciate that other women live a different life. I embrace the freedoms that are provided to me in this country and see them as quite wonderful, but I realize that others live differently and that these freedoms appear altogether wrong. In my recognition of the variation of humans and their lifestyles, I believe I exemplify compassion and consideration to all humankind.

I found it interesting to read that some communities that have been overtaken by ISIS forces are quite content to have these soldiers present. One man stated that at least with ISIS there is no corruption and no greed and as long as he stays within their good graces, he lives a safe and secure life. The murders that surrounded him just seemed to be the way things are and he is neither alarmed nor particularly interested. He feels his life is in better shape under what I view as a reign of terror than his previous life, which I would also view as a life of terror. The article mentions the fact that ISIS and similar forces may win out in the end simply because citizens are satisfied with this less terroristic lifestyle and acceptance of current conditions.

This type of life and ideology are alien to me but if I am human and a true member of humanity, I must accept that for some, freedom is valued differently and is not necessarily the government and life choice they want. Who am I to judge? I do not live in these nations, I have not been brought up in these cultures, I have little understanding other than brief visits abroad, reading, and listening to the news. And so as a human, while I am willing to help and education, it is not my job to interfere with criticism or moral degradation. I am fortunate to live where and how I do, but it is not mine to subject upon others.

Friday, 17 January 2003

Are Men Being Emasculated in the Twenty First Century?

Let's face it, the average man doesn't amount to much of anything. If he is not out attending to the women folk, he is out promoting men's rights. What exactly is men's right? That is like fighting for universal women's suffrage. In order to campaign for a right you have to have lost it somewhere along the line. At which point was the male population so disenfranchised that they felt the need to "fight for their rights?" We are the ones that make the rights. We are the ones that create laws and enforce them so when did the phallus of the western world become limp?

The emasculation of the western world has been going on for a long time, at least since the early twentieth century and for the African American population it has been going on since at least the eighteenth century.

I was reading a book the other day called We Real Cool: Black Men Masculinity by Bell Hooks. The author goes on to trace the plight of the black man back to the days of the plantations and how an inferiority complex has been sown in the minds of African Americans for hundreds of years. When slaves were originally brought from the African continent, their views on masculinity differed from the views of their captors. In Europe and America at the time male masculinity was defined as having control over the women and using that to establish dominance in their households and society.

The enslaved Africans on the other hand, saw masculinity as the ability to protect and provide for the women folk at all costs. They did not see women as ornaments but as equals that happened to have weaker bodies. The argument in the book slowly digresses or progresses, whichever one you would like to call it, into a long winded soliloquy into the many problems plaguing the black race.

The book itself only served to make me laugh because the author was not, in my opinion, identifying problems that were unique to any subset or ethnic group. They were problems that plague young men today in general. When these problems are not addressed then they spill over into adulthood and affect the men that are meant to be raising well rounded children. I won't really get into the problem of the black race because they are many and deep rooted.

This is a sermon on the emasculation of men, an emasculation that is flowing from the west to the East. I have had the privilege of living in many different countries in my short life. I grew up in Atlanta Georgia and Moved to Western Africa where I got my tertiary education and I am now living in the United Arab Emirates. The further east I go (Although I cannot speak on the Far East just yet), the more I realize that the loss of manhood is concentrated in the west.

In Africa, arguably the first bastion of civilization, men in the larger cities such as Lagos and Accra have begun to imbibe the traditions of western culture. They no longer embrace the role as the protector as they once used to but are now encouraging their women to play an equal role in the provision of basic necessities to the household. There is nothing wrong with this in and of itself but what I do not like is when these same men will turn around and say that they have become emasculated. If you give out the position that you were meant to inherit eg provider. You have no right to complain when the person that is playing an equal part in supplying the basic necessities to a household also want to play an equal part in governing it.

What did you expect to happen when your partner started to bring home half of the disposable income? Did you think that it would be business as usual? The simple truth of the matter is that as long as the cost of living continues to rise and more and more women are forced into the mainstream to secure better and better education then the more rapid the emasculation of men will be. Until in reality we will not be able to tell the difference between men and women aside from obvious sexual characteristics.

Our ancient symbol of virility, the unicorn, has forsaken us. That majestic creature that was so strong and stubborn that it refused to enter Noah's ark and instead swam in the deluge commanded by god. Whose horn was the very symbol of health and that anyone fortunate enough to drink from it was made nearly invincible. The strongest symbol of what it means to be a man has been lost to us. Will we ever get it back? Who knows?

In the legends, a virgin girl tricked the unicorn into a docile state where it was taken by surprise and killed by hunters. Have we again been seduced by the docile virgin and allowed our masculinity to be destroyed?

The horn and the unicorn that once represented the most sacred object, the phallus, is now just a child's plaything or a picture on greeting cards.

Do you realize that women feel the emasculation of the male population more acutely than you and I could ever imagine? Women were made to be subservient to us. When I say subservient I do not mean that they do not have an opinion and should be treated as our slaves. Quite the contrary, a good woman is a gift. When I say subservient to us I mean that they were made to follow where we lead. Your woman would much rather you said "get dressed were going out" then "I don't know, where do you want to go."

The ideal woman is strong enough to support a man in his darkest times and meek enough to give way in his greatest glory. Unfortunately, men have become boys and boys are toddlers and it is up to the women to lead the household. How can an entire population retain their masculinity when a large portion are growing up without suitable male role models.

The men they look up to, if there are any at all, are weak and ill equipped to instill proper values into them. They cannot teach them what it means to be a man because they themselves do not know. This is what I would call a shame for lack of a better word.

We have arrived at a turning point, either we sink as men or swim as men. Whichever path we do eventually choose will rewrite the course of the future. If we arise again to our former glory then the world will change for the better.

If we sink in our attempt to swim, if the waves are too strong and carry us under then we will hit the bottom of the ocean and a new social dynamic will be formed. The problem with the latter course is that like with every form of substance abuse it is going to be a painful adjustment process. Withdrawal is not a friendly experience.

Unfortunately, with the way things are going, we will soon hit that rock bottom, at least the western hemisphere will. I will ride out the storm in the comfort of UAE, or Ethiopia, or maybe even South Africa.

My fellow men, if we are to weather this storm then we need to make the changes not in the people around us but in ourselves. If you cannot be the change you wish to see in the world then you have no right to complain. I do not wish to be the leader in the coming struggle but if no pragmatic male can rise and lead us then I will reluctantly don the mantle.

I hope the men of this world are up to the challenge.

The first step in the journey of a thousand miles that we are about to embark on is to become the best men possible; I wrote an article on that here.

Until we are ready, you can catch me at Indomitable Audacity where I always muse on one topic or another Cheers!