OP-ED: Bureaucratic Wisdom = Oxymoron

by Rene A. Henry

SEATTLE, Wash. (Special to Huntingtonnews.net) -- Every year when I receive my automobile insurance bill my blood pressure rises when I see the line item for uninsured motorists.  Almost every state has a law that requires every vehicle owner to have liability insurance but this is seldom, if ever enforced.  And as a result we all subsidize those who are uninsured.  But Canada may have the best solution.

If states enforced the law, the cost for uninsured motorists on our auto insurance bills would reduce significantly.  Few if any states require the owner to show proof of coverage.  This would be a simple procedure and proof would have to be given before a license is issued as well as for renewals.  States also could require insurance companies to provide notification if insurance is cancelled or not paid.  Some low income families and single mothers simply cannot afford any type of insurance and it is all they can do to just keep a car operating.  Canada has the right system and makes it affordable for all. 

In Canada automobile insurance is controlled and issued by the provincial government.  In British Columbia, for example, the policy is issued by the Insurance Corporation of B.C. using licensed private agents who work on a strictly controlled commission.  The renewing of insurance is also part of issuing the annual license for each vehicle.   One fee renews both the annual auto license and insurance and vehicle owners cannot get one without the other.

The cost of insurance is tied directly to the owner’s driving record -- which is maintained in ICBC computers.  Infractions increase costs but a safe driving record combined with no-claim bonuses reduce the Canadian premium to one of the lowest in the world -- and everyone is insured.  

If all cities, counties and states just enforced the vehicle laws they have on their books, revenues would greatly increase, driving would become safer and hopefully insurance companies would reduce rates.  But this is too logical for many elected and appointed officials -– who are paid by taxpayers –- to comprehend and enforce laws.  

Throughout the U.S. and much of the world it is illegal to use a cellphone or to text while driving.  A texting driver is 23 times more likely to crash and a driver talking on a cellphone four times more likely to have an accident according to Edgar Snyder & Associates, a Pennsylvania law firm.  The Snyder firm says that at any given time during daylight hours 660,000 drivers in the U.S. are using phones or texting while driving.   

I see violators several times every day but I’ve never heard of or seen anyone being given a ticket.  A couple of weeks ago I was driving behind a police car and saw a driver, without signaling, make a left turn in front of the policeman.  The violator could not signal because he was talking into a cellphone held in his left hand.  The policeman just drove on.

In 2012, 421,000 people were injured and 3,328 people were killed in distraction-related crashes.  Eleven texting teens die every day.  These numbers are out of control yet the National Safety Council says that cell-phone-related car crashes are drastically under-reported.  Reports say 94 percent of drivers support bans on texting while driving and 74 percent want bans on hand-held cell phones.  So why are the laws not being enforced?

Pedestrians need to be ticketed as well.  The University of Washington monitored 20 of Seattle’s busiest intersections and found that pedestrians who text are four times less likely to look before crossing the street, or use crosswalks or obey traffic signals.  The researchers also found that texting pedestrians take longer to cross the street and cause traffic delays.

OP-ED: Bureaucratic Wisdom = Oxymoron


The Alfred E. Neuman prize this week for bureaucratic wisdom goes to the Seattle Department of Transportation.  On one major city thoroughfare the department calculated that drivers averaged 39 miles an hour in a posted 30 mile an hour speed limit.  Instead of enforcing the law to slow down speeding motorists and collect significant revenues for the city, the department is spending millions of dollars to eliminate two driving lanes and widen the sidewalks and bicycle lanes.  

The powers that be assume that drivers will be forced to drive slower because of the congestion created with two less lanes.  Thinking and planning this way has made Seattle the eighth most congested city in the country according to a report by ABC News.  Seattleites spend an average of 37 hours a year stuck in traffic.  Much of the credit has to go to these bureaucrats who are making such decisions.  What I am sure will happen is that once quiet neighborhood streets soon will be overrun with drivers taking alternate routes.

Rene A. Henry
Rene A. Henry


Canada always seems to get it right.  With Canada so nearby, too bad the politicos don’t spend some time there to understand how it all works so well.  However, as Forrest Gump says, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

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Rene A. Henry lives in Seattle and writes on a variety of subjects.  A native of Charleston, WV, he is the author of nine books and his latest, “Customer Service: the cornerstone of success,” is all about common courtesy. The book is available from Amazon as an audio book as well as in paperback and on Kindle.


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