Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Monday, December 11, 2006

  Opening up the fun of driving

Milo is still looking for that will-o-wisp of his—a cheap, dependable used Pierce-Arrow. I suggested that what he really needs is a small pickup, given how many bee hives he now owns. But he never listens to me.

Anyway, he's off for a few days in Texas where he thinks he has a lead on a relatively new P.-A. with little rust. Yesterday he called excitedly about a story in the local news that has people talking.

Seems that a new Texas law is going to allow the legally blind to drive on interstate highways. There's already a pilot program in place allowing them to drive on state highways. Some kill joys are saying it could be dangerous.

Here's part of his story:

A lawmaker in this car-friendly state wants to help more people get the chance to drive on their own even if those people can't see.

A bill filed for the 2007 legislative session would permit legally blind but otherwise qualified drivers to use laser sights, or lighted pointing instruments.

"This opens up the fun of driving to additional people, and I think that's great," said Republican Rep. Edmund Kuempel, the bill's sponsor.

Visually impaired people are allowed to drive now only with the aid of a sighted person, he said, a requirement that would end if the sights were legalized.

"I've seen this on TV before, when they're practicing in school parking lots," Kuempel said. "When they aim the car, the guide tells them, steer two feet to the left or two feet to the right and you're on the target, and you're off and running."

Kuempel's bill would give the state until Jan. 1, 2008, to come up with a definition of legally blind so the law could be enforced.

Under existing law, the use of laser sights, spotlights and headlights is strictly prohibited on all Texas roads. The practice can have the effect of blinding other drivers as the light shines on them. Drivers using sights under the proposed legislation would have to carry proof that they are legally blind.

Milo said he had some real doubts about the wisdom of this and has decided to leave the state immediately. I can't say I blame him. The pre-existing pilot program, modest by comparison, has developed some glaring problems already in the few months since its inception.


The pipeline that funnels legally blind drivers into the cabs of 18-wheelers extends well beyond the walls of two job centers where Texas is training blind welfare recipients to become truck drivers.

In Dallas County, for example, large numbers of blind men with histories of drug and alcohol abuse have attended truck-driving school and obtained their commercial driver's licenses, sometimes with the knowledge of probation officers and judges, court records reviewed by The Dallas Morning News show.

In some cases, Dallas County welfare officers referred clients to truck-driving schools. Some of the county's vision impaired were working as truckers while they were failing court-ordered drug tests. And some have injured motorists in truck accidents after obtaining their commercial driver's license, according to state records.

Dr. Michael Noyes, who became head of the Dallas County Community Supervision and Workfare Department in May, acknowledged that there are risks in placing blind people in truck-driving jobs because the work defies easy supervision....

"I certainly support any employment that my clients would be seeking to better themselves and their families," he said. "But there are levels of blindness that I would have concerns with in the trucking industry."

As so often with stories that Milo forwards to me, it's hard to know how to react to this. I will say that I hope it does not become a trend in the East, where I live, though I suppose registered drivers have been known to cross state lines. Worrisome indeed.

You'll want to read both stories in full. The second one goes on at length about a certain Mr. Snider, who even obtained a permit to transport hazardous materials. I hope he is not from the Snider family that lives across the river from me, because that bridge is narrow and it's the only way to get across for miles.


  • Milo might want to get his money back from that speed reading school he attended a while back. I know he's proud that he finished first in his class, but honestly . . .


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:51 PM  

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