Elected officials often want to be perceived as “doing something” about an issue, particularly when it is an emotionally charged one of life and death.
In the face of grieving families — who certainly have the right to demand solutions — politicians are susceptible to formulating plans whose chief attribute is to only look like solutions rather than being real ones.
And so the state House Transportation Committee called Monday for a safety study of Loop 101 in the East Valley. Families of crash victims went to lawmakers after hearing from Arizona Department of Transportation officials the rather unsatisfying answer, based though it was on evidence, that the design of the freeway needs no alteration.
Many legislators, not wishing to tell those who have lost a loved one that tinkering with the freeways’ design will do little to save lives, instead did what politicians often do: They appeared responsive to the concerns of these wounded folks by calling for a study.
But one is not needed. ADOT has exceeded federal standards for safe freeway design, especially since it installed cable barriers in medians a few years ago. And ADOT officials said in Tuesday’s Tribune that Loop 101’s safety record is no worse than that of other state highways — and in some cases it’s better.
Besides, the true reason for death and serious injuries on Loop 101 and other Valley freeways is years-long neglect by state officials in hiring enough Department of Public Safety patrol officers to keep up with population growth and the increase in the Valley’s number of total freeway miles.
Nothing, but nothing, encourages safe driving like the presence of squad cars and police motorcycle officers. The very sight of them forces us all to automatically check our speedometers and slow down if we’re traveling too fast or driving recklessly.
Several legislators have rightfully questioned the need for such a study, as did DPS officers, people you’d expect to be usually found in the families’ corner. Driver aggressiveness, impatience and inattention are behind many crashes throughout the entire Valley, the committee was told.
In the face of evidence, a Legislature-ordered study would be a waste of time and resources. Legislators should resist the temptation to offer a palliative and instead offer a real solution: more highway patrol officers.