With Road Safety Like This, Who Needs Drunk Drivers?


A few weeks ago, I was driving with my family in upstate New York on one of those open two-lane highways where it’s pretty easy to do 60 m.p.h. even though you probably shouldn’t. (The posted speed limit is 55.) The road is dotted with farmhouses from which the occasional dog can dart out, or even a kid on a bike. It’s also hilly and a bit curvy — all in all, a road you want to drive safely on.

So when I had so slam on my brakes at the sight of some orange cones in the middle of this road, I immediately worried there’d been a bad accident. There were at least a dozen cars backed up in either direction. But there hadn’t been an accident.

Out in front of the fire house, the town’s volunteer rescue squad had used the cones to stop traffic and several people were soliciting donations for the rescue squad’s budget.

I was pretty surprised. If you were at a meeting of the rescue squad and someone was soliciting ideas to raise money, I’d have to think that stopping high-speed traffic in the middle of the road in order to shake a can would be pretty near the bottom of the list; kind of like a doctor offering cigarettes in the waiting room.

On the other hand, if someone did have an accident as they were screeching to a halt, the rescue squad would be right on hand — and could therefore make a strong argument for the service it provides.

And you thought painting ads on the highway was dangerous.


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  1. Ben says:

    I hate it when people solict funds on the roadside. It happens all the time in major intersections where I live, often with kids running around collecting money to attend a sports tournament. I always thought it was just a matter of time before someone is run over and they’re now collecting money for medical bills or a memorial fund.

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  2. Chris says:

    I went to school in upstate New York and have run into this sort of things on a number of occassions. The whole concept isn’t only poorly thought out, it’s horribly irresponsible. In addition to the safety risks that you’ve mentioned, these campaigns sometimes back traffic up for miles. Let’s do the math why don’t we. That’s perhaps 5,000 people inconvenienced times 15 minutes per person times, say, $15 per hour per person, times gasoline costs for idling, times CO2 emmissions, etc…….

    Excellent public service indeed. All hail the Amsterdam, NY Fire department.

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  3. Mark Wolfinger says:

    I hope you gave them hell – and that means no money.

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  4. mohammad says:

    I just recently saw the exact same thing for the first time by Gatlinburg, TN

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  5. tim says:

    The fire department locally has also been disrupting traffic for the same thing frequently in busy areas (I’ve observed it four times now). Its an abuse of their office plain and simple.

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  6. Daniel Reeves says:

    It’s a terrible way to do fundraising but how can you say it’s a safety issue? If having to stop for cones in the road is dangerous then it’s surely only a matter of time before one of those kids on bikes gets killed. The more cones the safer, I say.

    Actually, the best safety idea I’ve heard is to remove all painted lines and traffic lights and stuff (use things like roundabouts instead). This forces everyone to simply drive drastically slower (it’s been tried in Holland I think, and seems to work).

    There should be a sharp distinction between interstates (aka autobahns) and all other roads. Either it’s a fenced off highway or you should be going at most twice the speed of bikes. Certainly if stopping for cones on a non-interstate is a safety issue then something is very wrong.

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  7. jb says:

    A local teen soccer club was raising funds to fly from WV to merry olde England for a trip. They had a four-way intersection as their stage, and parked off to one side was the Mercedes SUV the players arrived in.

    I did not give. I doubt I will ever give to a cause begging in this manner, but that miscalculation annoyed me greatly.

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  8. DJH says:

    In some parts of rural CT, firefighters bracket intersections with a “fill the boot” donation request. They generally stay out of the way, but I’m sorry, when I’m driving through an intersection, the last thing I need is to have to whip out my wallet or dig through my pockets for money or change … one particular intersection where they did this is a big 5-way job which is a pain to navigate even when there aren’t people wandering around begging!

    Somehow I don’t see that any charitable cause is so great that collecting for it can possibly justify screwing with traffic. That said, however, I’m sure there are plenty of people who would disagree … which just goes to show how easy it is to cloud people’s judgement where charity is concerned.

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