29.4.08

END THE CORPORATE WELFARE. Our tax dollars go to provide inefficiently many rights-of-way for trucking companies that do not bear the costs of using them. Thus motorists have to bear the costs inflicted on them by excess-weight vehicles more productive of potholes than of ton-miles. Pedestrians and corner lot owners are at risk because city governments refuse (or are prohibited by state and national governments) to ban articulated vehicles from city streets. And I haven't even begun to fulminate about the effects of one of those slow-accelerating ton-mile-nonproducers on traffic flows when it has to deal with the mistimed traffic lights on the arterial streets.

But I have more serious things to fulminate about. On Friday, I had business in Chicago, and as I was making my way through the Loop, the loudspeakers at the L stations were advising riders of a closure on the North-South from Grand to 35th. A runaway truck left two people dead on an escalator at the Cermak-Chinatown station. The mechanical condition of the truck and the aspects on the traffic lights are not yet public knowledge. But who among us has not seen a semi on an arterial street, that upon receiving a yellow light with a block or two of stopping distance, hasn't accelerated (that is, if such things can be said to accelerate) and laid on the horn. This behavior is apparently encouraged by the industry, and far too frequently winked at by law enforcement. So we have the stories of two lives cut short, whether by inattention or mechanical failure or by business as usual. The driver is a real piece of work.

Initial toxicology tests showed no signs of illegal drugs in the system of the driver, Don Wells, but officials are awaiting expanded results for additional substances.

"We are investigating everything," said Chicago Police Sgt. Maurice McCaster of the major accidents unit.

After police took his clothes as evidence, Wells declined the paper garments he was offered and stayed in the police lockup naked, McCaster said.

Wells, 64, was in custody for two days. During that time, he urinated on the floor of his cell instead of using the urinal, sources said.

Wells' behavior is one of many mysteries surrounding the Friday rush-hour crash, which killed Eloisa Guerrero, 47, and Delisia Brown, 18. Wells, of Metamora, Mich., was ticketed for negligent driving and released from police custody Sunday night.

The truck left no skid marks, sources said. That fact has led investigators to wonder if the brakes malfunctioned -- or if Wells simply did not apply them. Investigators are examining the truck for mechanical problems.

The corporate welfare recipient trucking company epitomizes precision transportation, if precision is in counting the misrepresentations.

According to U.S. Department of Transportation records, over the past 30 months Whiteline had 41 accidents with 15 injuries and one fatality before Friday.

Whiteline's safety officer said she had found 923 falsified drivers' logs from 2004 to 2006, according to lawsuit records reported by WMAQ-Ch. 5. Some 691 driver logs were missing, the officer said.

Why are we buying rights of way for corner-cutting enterprises such as these?

Closer to home, a different trucker failed to yield with the predictable result.

The driver of the semi in an accident that killed NIU glassblower Daniel Edwards was cited for failing to yield while turning left.

At 7:42 a.m. Wednesday, Edwards, 60, of Rochelle was traveling eastbound on Highway 38 near the interchange with I-39 when a westbound semi-trailer turned in front of his motorcycle, causing a collided.

Edwards was taken to Rochelle Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Daniel’s wife, Diane Edwards, 58, of Rochelle, was a passenger on the motorcycle and was also taken to Rochelle Community Hospital and then transferred by helicopter to Rockford Memorial Hospital.

The driver of the semi, Gerald Hemker, 51, of Germantown, was not injured in the crash.

Hemker was issued a citation for failing to yield while turning left, according to a Rochelle Police Department press release.

Edwards was best known at NIU for hosting a glassblowing demonstration each fall. He planned on retiring at the end of the semester. Edwards was the 1999 recipient of the Helmut E. Drechsel Achievement Award, given out by the American Glassblowers Society.

“We are very saddened and shocked by the news of Dan’s death this morning,” said Shannon Gates, coordinator for recruitment and public relations of the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, on Wednesday. “He was a great asset to our department, as a talented glassblower and good friend.”

One man dead, one couple's retirement ruined, one more episode of sadness on campus, because law enforcement winks at disregard of traffic signals by truckers, and because road commissioners refuse to separate freight from passenger traffic.

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