Drive time lunacy

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The other day I was driving from Kearny to Jersey City along the Belleville Pike (Rt. 7) on a very dark night and, as I traveled up one of those roller coaster “bridges,” I could make out the outlines of a work crew on the west side of the highway.

But I had to strain to see anything else – particularly the roadway – because of the two klieg lights aimed in my direction, nearly blinding me.

I had to shield my eyes from the glare to avoid striking the traffic cones which, I belatedly discovered, had been set up parallel to the eastbound lane to protect the crew from oncoming vehicles.

Luckily, I managed to safely negotiate my way through what I considered an extremely hazardous situation, all the while thinking I was being featured in an outtake from some horror film.

Perhaps I’m overreacting but I think we all have enough stress to deal with in life without also having to worry about whether we’ll get home in one piece.

So that’s why I was baffled to read a May 15 Star-Ledger story about a 64-year-old Hoboken motorist whose license has been suspended 34 times – four of those times because he was charged with DUI, most recently on April 13, according to the N.J. DMV.

Most recently, he was stopped in Hoboken on May 14 and charged with driving while suspended while he was drunk. No valid license since 2010.

Question: How come this guy is still out there driving, endangering all of us? Why hasn’t he been put away? I’d ask Gov. Christie but he’s probably in Iowa or New Hampshire or someplace other than the Garden State and you know he doesn’t have to worry about driving there.

Better maybe to take the train, right?

Which brings us to Amtrak and the “positive train control” device.

As reported by The New York Times last Friday, Congress several years ago mandated installation of the sophisticated sensor system on passenger and major freight railroads but then denied them access to the radio frequencies to make the system operable.

So Amtrak and others, the Times reported, had to buy that access from private sector firms – a process that has taken years to accomplish.

Another alarm system known as automatic train control was installed only on the southbound tracks – where it’s reportedly more difficult to slow down – but it is unclear whether it would have prevented the accident, the Times said.

On top of that, there was a report attributed to an assistant conductor that someone may have pelted the window of the train with a rock or some other type of projectile which could have distracted the engineer. Folks intent on mischief have easy access to the tracks through gaps in fencing.

And now, eight people who only expected to get from one place to another on a train are dead.

Desperate, hopeless migrants risking everything by booking passage on rickety wooden boats through crooked smugglers are also trying to get from one place to another but countries like Malaysia and Indonesia say they want them to go away. No room at the inn. Stay at sea. Drown.

Many of them too numerous to mention have, in fact, done exactly that – as their ships’ captains and crew have deserted them – while a weary world – despite heroic rescue efforts by Italians and others – stands by and watches war, corruption and intolerance overwhelm innocent citizens.

Who was it that said the world is your oyster?

– Ron Leir 

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.