Monday, December 29, 2008

Houston Report on Red Light Enforcement Cameras

The report on red light camera effectiveness has been released by the City of Houston. There is some interesting data amongst its pages. It really is a mixed bag of information. The intersections must be observed for a longer time to see if there is more conclusive evidence. There are people who believe some tinkering with the data by the City of Houston has corrupted the information and their conclusions. This is Houston's report based on the Rice University study. We expect similar results here in The Woodlands and Montgomery County, so the data might very well be representative of our use of cameras as well. I asked for the local information but so far, received no reply from the county.

Just today, I observed an automobile here in The Woodlands speeding up to run a light perpendicular to Woodlands Parkway. It was one of those cases where the driver put the pedal to the metal to get through the light quickly (my guess was that the car was traveling 60+ mph after passing through the light. The driver immediately entered a commercial area where cars are vulnerable to side collisions by speeding vehicles. The light was totally red before the car even entered the intersection. There is no record of that event (except of course for this article), no photograph, no fine, nothing. It was very dangerous for the car running the light and the automobiles coming down Woodlands Parkway about to enter the intersection. Why do people do that? There is a fable about rear-end collisions that justifies the means for some folks. This is one reason we need these intersections monitored. Having the data to understand driving behaviors and having a means to dissuade law breakers from breaking the law is important in this society and in this place. Some drivers are reckless, putting others in harm's way. I've seen it a hundred times over. After a while one thinks he can make his own conclusions on the matter without a lot of data, but in reality, we don't know it all and have to seek statistics that are meaningful and unbiased so we can understand if this current initiative of ours is actually doing some good. It appears so from the Houston data.

There is generally plenty of time to stop after a light turns yellow. However, if one is almost already in the intersection, then there is no need for the driver to speed up; just pass through. If there is time to stop, then commit to a stop when the signal is yellow. If you don't know if you have time, take a course in driving. It is taught everywhere. One can actually use a counting system to take the guesswork out of the decision. That method is taught in driving class 101, not exactly rocket science either. One day all autos will hopefully have a built-in detector that says whether to proceed or to stop. Instead, we have people installing warning systems in their cars so that they can break the law when there is no monitoring camera system.
(1) Channel 11 PDF document - the Houston Report
(2) Chronicle article on same subject matter

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Early 2008 Snowfall in The Woodlands

If you have children or got out in the weather yesterday, you would have seen bright smiles and sheer excitement as the fluffy flakes meandered through the air to their landing places. One youngster coming home from school just could not wait to get out of his automobile. His mama relented to his energy, so he exited when she stopped at a stop sign. He rushed down the street, mouth open, to capture every parcel of experience that he could manage. Then a few minutes later, he was on the street again on his bicycle with friends, yelling with exhilaration. Then I go to another place and watch two young ladies with their cell phones taking photos of themselves side-by-side, surrounded by flying flakes. Then they screamed as they ran around a cul-de-sac trying to eat the snow flakes with a wide open mouth, then finding some snow on automobiles, wadded it up and tried to throw a strike to hit the other or get hit. Oh yea, and some children made snow balls and put them in the freezer for the day when they might come in handy. Similar stories probably unfolded on your street as well as the white stuff glistened in the lights after dark.

Yep, this was special to many of us. Some have never seen snow before. It fell much longer than I thought it would, but it is gone now and we did not reap as much as those more lucky ones to our south.

Here in the forest, there is something more special about snow as one looks up into the sky and senses the gift that God provided to us. You can see the flakes floating down high in the trees. So here are a couple of photographs of our hometown getting a snow bath on the earliest snowfall in recorded history in the Houston area. Actually there was a snowfall back in 1944, on the same day in December, before I was even born.