Monitor Board of Contributors: Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
A sign warns motorists on Interstate 89 on Friday, July 6, 2012 in Bolton, Vt. Highway safety officials say police are going to strictly enforce the speed limits for the next 60 days during a statewide, coordinated crackdown on speeders. The announcement was in response to 42 accident fatalities since January-- twice the number of deaths at this time last year.(AP Photo/Toby Talbot)
A sign alongside 13th Street near 10th Avenue in Columbus, Ga., warns westbound motorists Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2015 of potential icing on the bridge due to wintry precipitation. Georgians stocked up on ice-melting chemicals, school systems closed, and road crews prepared to clear snow and ice from highways as a winter storm took aim. (AP Photo/Columbus Ledger, Mike Haskey)
Curbing distracted driving is once again on the Legislature’s docket. There are three bills up for consideration. Collectively, they say while driving in New Hampshire, it should be illegal to read text messages, hold a cell phone to your ear, program a GPS or, my all-time favorite, read a newspaper while driving. With all due respect to this fine publication, it boggles my mind that we even have to legislate the last one!
I’m all for reducing accidents, lessening the number of injuries and eliminating deaths. However, if the state wants to limit distracted driving, it needs to set a better example. Has anyone else noticed an increased number of electronic signs overhead and along the roadside?
One of these orange oracles is located on the side of the road right before Exit 15 on Interstate 93 South. Whose bright idea was this location? The I-93/393 exchange is manageable during low traffic. Any other time it is like a game of automotive pinball. Successfully navigating that eighth of a mile requires full focus to avoid the onslaught of tractor trailers and passenger vehicles trying to merge onto I-93 South, or the I-93 South traffic exiting onto I-393 heading toward Loudon Road and the Seacoast. I’m especially fond of people driving in the left lane of I-93 South who decide they need to exit onto I-393 East at the last possible second.
When approaching Exit 15 on I-93, I’m too busy psyching myself up to stay in one piece to pay attention to any stinkin’ sign.
The majority of the time I take my eyes off the road to have my driving experience enlightened by these diviners, I’m lectured about the perils of drinking and driving or being reminded to buckle my seat belt. I do not mean to belittle the messages. Seat belts save lives and drinking and driving is just stupid. What I’m questioning is the method of delivery. Constantly berating drivers with messages that do not convey time-sensitive information is rendering these signs useless.
Hospital staff suffer from something called alarm fatigue. That’s where alarms alerting staff of a change in a patient’s condition go off so frequently that the staff learns to tune them out. Well, I submit that if they aren’t already, Concord-area drivers will soon suffer from sign fatigue. I know I do.
After diverting my eyes for nonessential information a few times, I just stopped looking, especially under less-than-optimal road conditions. Recently, I missed out on relevant information. It was snowing, and I can assure you that for most of my travel between Exit 16 and Exit 10 conditions didn’t warrant speeds over 35 mph. However, as I got closer to Hooksett, road conditions improved, and the snow all but stopped. I might have been doing 50 as I passed through the E-ZPass lane. Once I made it through the toll, the overhead sign bade me “SLOW DOWN.” The guy in the maroon Dodge pickup flying by me obviously missed the memo. A split second later, the text switched to “MAX SPEED 45 MPH.”
That? That was information I needed to know. Honestly, that was the first time that one of those signs has had anything remotely useful to say.
I recognize the good intentions at play here: Use the resources we have wisely, remind people not do to stupid things. However, I don’t want to take the road paved with good intentions. I’m just trying to get to Manchester.
(Lee Laughlin of Loudon is a freelance writer, social media marketer, wife and mother of two.)