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Tuttle

A modest proposal to promote public transportation and make driving a little safer

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Public transportation is often the bastard stepchild of urban planning, but creative ways to increase its use would solve more than a carload of problems.

One sure way to make mass transit a top priority is to restrict driving to those older than 25 or younger than 70. If our state Legislature had the chutzpah to pass such a law, it's certain that we'd see a groundswell of people demanding a dependable and expanded public-transportation system.

Sure, there would be the boringly predictable outcry about rights, freedom and mobility as an enshrined icon of the American experience, but after the initial fulminations, most people would realize the benefits of safer and less-congested roads, including improved air quality, personal financial savings and less consumption of our diminishing supply of crude. And that's just the beginning.

No drivers younger than 25 means far fewer idiots on the road using cell phones or, worse, text-messaging while attempting to maneuver a turn. (That these two egregious behaviors haven't already been outlawed in Arizona is one more indication of the shit-for-brains condition permeating our state Legislature.)

With the authority of the law behind them, parents would no longer have to struggle with imaginative ways to deny their offspring a personal vehicle. Nor would parents suffer the guilt associated with saying no; after all, it's the law. And teens would benefit, too. After the obligatory time spent pissing and moaning about ruined lives, they would soon learn to enjoy the democratizing and social lessons of using public transportation rather than Dad or Mom's car. Forced out of the car and onto the bus, teens would mingle with folks they might not otherwise meet. And once teens are off the road, there is no reason to keep them from imbibing, so lowering the drinking age to 18 will help dampen their "woe-is-me" uproar.

With all those speeding, cell-phone-using and otherwise electronically distracted young people off the road and safely swilling at the nearest pub, we can expect our auto-insurance premiums to be substantially reduced. And when all of those geezers get out of their vehicles and develop a more suitable relationship with a bus seat rather than a steering wheel, we can look forward to even more insurance savings.

But saving money is the least of it. With the two populations responsible for a large percentage of serious accidents off the roads, we can enjoy safer motoring experiences. Motorcyclists will no longer have to cringe each time they spot someone with gray hair and oversized sunglasses at the wheel. And parents will be free of worry over an octogenarian's foot slipping off the brake and onto the accelerator, therefore sending the vehicle into a crowd of school children who, up until that fateful moment, were enjoying a field trip to the zoo.

And who hasn't been driving down the highway on a windy day, trying like hell not to be swept away by a sudden gust, only to find a monstrous motor home weaving all over the road, unable to keep to its own lane and--as it rounds a bend in the road--careening so precipitously it appears certain to land on its side, crushing any vehicle unfortunate enough to be in the way?

Besides the insurance savings, there's another financial benefit to getting Gran and Gramps, and their motorized carapaces, off the road: All those folks not allowed to drive will still need to get places, and that presents an opportunity for people who find themselves unemployed as the result of the economic meltdown. With a clean driving record and a smidgen of initiative, just about anyone can provide chauffer services.

With the older-than-70 crowd forever banned from driving any vehicle other than an electric cart (and those only on golf courses), the terror associated with driving in Tucson between the months of, say, October and April will be significantly mitigated.

Once we get youngsters and oldsters off our roads, we'll be safe from two groups of dangerous drivers. Then all we'll need to worry about are those who don't signal, who drive while inebriated, who use a visor mirror for putting on makeup, who believe eating and driving are compatible activities and, even though they are way past their teen years, those idiots who still use their cell phones while driving.

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