Fact is fact and fiction is sometimes science fiction…

Stuck In Traffic by Ed Kant

Let me begin by saying that I have great respect for Ben Bova, the NDN resident sage regarding most things scientific (fact or fiction), however, I believe that his opening comments in this Sunday’s paper (Jan. 17) were way off base.
Mr. Bova apparently believes that the overhead highway information signs that were recently erected along I-75 are a waste of our hard-earned tax dollars. He tries to make his point by intimating that the signs have not been working since they were put in place many months ago. He does at least acknowledge that the signs have been lit to indicate that they are under test and, on occasion, remind us to buckle up for safety. He goes on to say that even if the signs are lit to warn you about a crash or other blockage ahead, the prudent motorist would simply pull off at the next exit and go around the obstruction. He postulates that even without the signs, if there were a blockage or slowdown, one would have an opportunity to pull off and go around it.
Somehow he seems to lose the connection between the information and the assimilation of that information. How shall one to know there is a problem if one does not have some way of obtaining the information? Perhaps Mr. Bova was thinking of how some of the characters in the science fiction he writes (and, I understand, quite well, although I am not a fan of that genre) might get the information via second-sight, brainwaves, or some writer’s thought device. In the real world we need to hear it on the radio, read about it on a sign, or find ourselves actually stuck in it – no telepathy at work here.
These signs are part of a larger effort to keep the motoring public safe and informed. They are controlled from the new regional emergency highway operations center just being finished at the intersection of I-75 and Daniels Parkway. That nerve center will monitor the entire stretch of I-75 from near the Charlotte County line to near the Collier County line in the Everglades. The entire system is designed to raise the level of safety and awareness on the interstate so that drivers can anticipate problems or other issues and have sufficient time to react. In addition, they are used for Amber and Silver alerts in conjunction with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Why haven’t they been working since they were put up? That is because the operations center is not yet in full operation. That is why the test message and the exhortation to be safe (“Buckle Up for Safety”) have been up there.
Even after the signs are in full working mode, you might not always see them lit. Research has shown that if those signs are lit all the time, they become like so many other roadway distractions. They need to be attention-getters, so they might stay blank for a while and only light up when there is something to say.
Sorry, Mr. Bova, on this issue I strongly disagree with you. This is definitely not a waste of taxpayers’ money and should ultimately result in smoother traffic flow and, possibly, a safer driving environment.

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