In which engineers discover professional ethics

Lincoln, Nebraska city councilors have a message for their traffic engineers: If you do your job, we’ll replace you with somebody who won’t.

The problem started when city engineers said some school zones were unnecessary and unsafe. Their decision was made based on actual crash reports, not wishful thinking.

City councilors didn’t get elected by putting facts before fantasy. If parents want a school zone there has to be a school zone. In most cities, that would be the end of the matter. Engineers throw ethics aside and give the politicians what they want.

Lincoln’s traffic engineers shocked me by insisting on doing their job. They refused to sign the paperwork creating an unsafe school zone.

The city council may hire somebody else to sign the paperwork. They can find a hired gun with their $150,000 budget. It’s like doctor shopping when you need to feed your addiction. The least ethical engineer is the one who gets the contract.

There used to be a saying, nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. Before PC clones took off in the 1980s, IBM equipment was the conservative choice. It might not be the right choice, but everybody else did it.

Nobody gets fired for creating a dangerous situation by caving into demands for stop signs and speed limits.

Nobody understands the purpose of school zones. They think schools create an aura of schoolness around them and signs soothe the aura.

What are city councilors really trying to accomplish?

One of the school zones the city council demanded is near an intersection over half a mile away from school. If any children did cross drivers would have to stop for a red light. Why should they also have to slow down when children aren’t crossing?

Imagine you’re driving on a 50 mph divided highway. There are no driveways, no buildings adjacent to the road, no school within a half mile, and no pedestrians in sight. You see a 25 mph flashing school zone sign.

What they will actually accomplish is causing wrecks when gullible drivers brake and smart drivers don’t.

As for what they are trying to accomplish, they are trying to show their authority. To send a message two wheels good, four wheels bad. To show that Lincoln is “unique”.

The Lincoln City Council is far from unique; everybody in power loves to meddle in traffic policy. What is unique is the “safety first” attitude of the city’s engineering department.

The opinions expressed in this post belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of the National Motorists Association or the NMA Foundation. This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of this post or the included links.

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