“Safety first” has become the nation’s mantra. We must always be as safe as is humanly possible. In order to achieve this illusion of safety, we do really stupid things.

Honk, honk, honk, honk, honk

I would love to meet the Einstein who designed a safety feature for school buses. The school bus gives five (5) short blasts on the horn each and every time it is ready to depart from a stop. I assume this is to keep kindergarteners from crawling under the bus to retrieve dropped papers. I know this has actually resulted in children being crushed by the bus. What I don’t understand is how the horn is supposed to help. If you can’t see the mammoth yellow bus, what difference will the horn make?

Let’s say you are a child forced to ride on this bus. And let’s say there are fifteen stops on the bus route and you are the first pick up and last drop off. That means that each day you hear 150 horn blasts. After a year of riding the bus, you have been treated to 27,000 horn blasts.

In order to not lose your mind and be driven crazy by this constant blasting, you do the logical thing – you tune it out. You don’t even hear the blasts. I know this because I only hear the bus about four times per day, but many days, I am sitting right here with the windows open and I don’t hear it at all. I’ve tuned it out and I’m submitted to this stimuli far less frequently than the bus riders themselves.

So, in essence, whoever did the design has made our children’s lives less safe. They have learned to not listen to horn blasts. Therefore, if they are about to be in a dangerous situation and someone blows a horn at them, there is a great possibility they won’t be paying attention.

This might not be so grave for those cute little kindergarten kids because maybe they won’t chase a ball into the street or run out into traffic. However, high school kids ride these same buses and they are soon going to be driving. And they have been conditioned to not hear a horn blast.

Brilliant. Simply brilliant. We are all now so much safer.

On this same topic, who decided to put the bright white flashing light on the top of the buses? Or even worse, the rapidly flashing bright white light on the back of mail trucks? Does someone think it is a good idea to induce seizures in drivers?

Many epileptics are controlled with medication and can safely drive. They may not be able to safely play some video games because the flashy lights can induce a seizure. So, we decided to put them on buses and other safety response vehicles like an ambulance. That one at least makes some sense. Revenue enhancement, as it were. Induce the seizure and then pick up the victim of a car crash. Brilliant marketing there.

We were following a roadside pickup truck that did electrical work for SCG&E one day. The guy had not turned off his flashing lights. At least we were lucky enough to have Dick driving. First I put my head down. Then I shut my eyes. Then I covered my eyes with my hand. I was just getting ready to tell Dick we had to pull off the road and let the truck get far away as I was getting a migraine when suddenly the driver in front of us realized his flashers were still on and so he turned them off.

All these devices are made to try to capture our attention so we will drive or live more safely, more aware of our surroundings. However, they all have down sides. Conditioning our children to ignore horns is probably rather stupid. The flashing lights can induce seizures in some prone to them and migraines for other who deal with that issue.

I don’t even know if they make any difference anyway. If you can’t see the great big yellow bus, does the light matter? If you are driving and texting and not looking up, will the horn stop you? Not if you had been riding one of those buses for two years before you got your license.

I think the more important question to ask is why driving is seen as time to get work of another nature done. We surely are too over scheduled if our drive time is meant only as a time to do “something else” because driving is too unessential to deserve our attention. Paying attention to the hazards of the road is the business of driving. It is important and deserves your attention.