Marco Island Editorials, Rate x Time 


Hi, Folks –                                                         Feb 19,2001 

Remember the “word problems” of 8th grade?  So far, it had been pretty much “pure math” – times tables, charts and graphs, and some “word problems” of a simple nature – usually involving money.    But then 8th grade arrived, and the “word problems” began to get complicated.  

“If a train with three dining cars and 1287 passengers is traveling at 76 mph, and if each dining car will hold 165 people, and if it takes the men 34 minutes to eat their meal, and the women take 43 minutes, and if ½ of the husbands leave at the end of the meal and 1/3 of the remaining wives move to tables with only wives at the table, and 2/5 of the tables are removed between meals, and the train slows down to 62 mph for 27 minutes each hour, how long will it take to serve 3/7 of the wives and 5/9 of the husbands if 2/11 of the people are single and eat their meals in 39 minutes?” 

Yeah!  Now you remember 8th grade! Aren’t you glad you don’t have to do that again!  Unfortunately, you do. 

Hello.  My name is George Lester, and I publish the Marco Island Newsletter.  All of you got my “mass mailing,” dated Jan 27, 2001, concerning the spending cap and various “myths” that float around the island.  It came in a “myth/fact” format, in case you forgot.  As you may remember, I gave you the web site of our state government so you could check on what I was telling you.  If you read that newsletter and checked on what I told you, it will be very difficult for anyone to “snow” you with bad information about the cap or what it’s doing to the island.  

My mailing list is growing rapidly – and to those of you who haven’t gotten anything since the mass mailing, I am en-closing a summary of the newsletter’s back issues.  Please take your time, read the summary, and decide if you want to stay on my mailing list.  If you don’t want to get any more newsletters, please call me and tell me.  You won’t hurt my feelings.  If you want to look at anything in the summary in more detail, click on the web site listed in the heading of this newsletter and you can read any edition of the newsletter in its entirety. 

As I go to press, it may turn out that the spending cap is illegal, and the argument’s over.  If that happens, I will be very disappointed.  I would much rather have this issue settled by the people of Marco Island, instead of being “saved” by state law.  But this edition of the newsletter concerns something a lot more important than the spending cap or the rest of the issues we argue about – it concerns public safety.  I get a lot of phone calls – and one of the most important things on the minds of my readers is the speeding (not spending) that goes on, all the time, on every street, in every area of the island.  I have been asked to talk about that in my newsletter, and I’m happy to do so. 

Rate x Time = Distance.  It was one of the simpler formulas we learned in 8th grade, but one of the few we still use, every day, whether we realize it or not.   We have all been tailgated by someone who thinks we’re going “too slow” when we adhere to the posted speed of 35 mph or 30 mph – and even when we’ve exceeded those speeds by 5 mph or more.  We’ve all been passed by motorists doing at least 50 or 60 in a 35 mph zone – and we’ve all seen the big trucks hauling dirt or some other cargo that speed up and down Bald Eagle, Collier, and San Marco.  We’ve all seen the fully loaded trucks that hit our bridges doing at least 40.  And we’ve all asked ourselves, “where are the cops when we need them?”  I’d like to cover all of that in this edition. 

We learned in high school physics that there are reasons why things happen.  This edition will examine why things happen on the roads of Marco Island, by starting with an analysis of things that happen on 951 as we come down the highway to the bridge. 

Coming down 951, I set the “cruise control” in my car to 55 mph.  (I do that because I feel it’s safer, and it keeps me from getting tickets.)  But then I’m passed by cars and trucks going at least 70 – and some going a lot faster.  Why is everyone speeding on 951?  We’ve all heard the stories of pilots who refused to believe their instruments and flew into the ground.  The body is too sensitive for today’s machines.  It was built that way.  You’re supposed to be living in the jungle – or on a savannah.  You weren’t meant to travel at 70 mph for hours on end and then suddenly slow down to 55.  The body exaggerates the sensation, and warns you. “Hey!  You’re going too slow!  I don’t know why you’ve slowed down, but that saber-toothed predator is going to catch you if you don’t hurry up!” 

It doesn’t matter if you’re in a car, an airplane, a boat, or running through the jungle, fleeing from the predators of 200,000 years ago.  When you enter the Marco River and have to decelerate from the faster speed you’ve been maintaining on the open ocean, you feel the same as when you come off  I-75 – it seems like you’re standing still. 

The same thing happens on Marco Island.  When you cruise at 45 mph and then have to slow down behind a car obeying the speed limit of 35 mph, your body exaggerates the loss of speed.  It has to.  It’s warning you that something’s wrong.  200,000 years ago, that sensation might have saved your life.  Today, that sensation might kill you – or someone else.  Fortunately, when we invented our “speed machines,” we also invented instruments and gages to go along with them.  You have to believe your speedometer – not your senses. 

The first rule in instrument flight is: “believe your instruments!”  You can’t rely on your senses any more than a pilot can when he’s “flying blind.”  You slow down, and then you think you’re just crawling along – but you’re not.  You’re still ruled by the laws of physics and math.  The formulas (and the results) will never change.  At least not here on Earth.    Rate x Time = Distance.  You’re stuck in that formula whether you like it or not – and there’s no way you can get out of it.  If you’re early, late, or on time, it makes no difference.  You can’t change the formula or the result.  The minute your wheels turn the formula takes over – and it won’t release you until you park your car. 

So what does that mean to you as you drive around Marco Island?  Yvonne and I drove around Marco Island, measuring distances.  We came down Barfield from Collier Blvd to the loop at the end.  Collier to San Marco, 2.0 miles. San Marco to Winterberry, .6.  Winterberry to the loop, 1.3.  So from Collier to the end of Barfield is 3.9 miles.  Then we drove across Winterberry from Barfield to S. Collier - 1.6 miles. Then we drove up Collier from Winterberry to Bald Eagle.  Winterberry to San Marco, 1.1 miles. San Marco to Bald Eagle, 1.6 miles.  From Palm Dr. to N. Collier on Bald Eagle, 1.4 miles.  On down to San Marco, 1.4 miles.  From Collier to Barfield on San Marco, 2.1 miles. 

All of the distances are short.  The formula of Rate x Time = Distance tells you that no matter how fast you go, you won’t save much time.  If you and I are stopped at the traffic light at the corner of San Marco Rd and Collier, and we’re going up Collier to Bald Eagle, we’re going to get there about the same time – even if our speeds are different. If I drive at the speed limit of 35 mph and you drive at 50 mph, I’ll get to Bald Eagle in 2.7 minutes.  You’ll get there in 1.9 minutes.  So you’ll get there about 48 seconds ahead of me.  But what have you done for your 1.9 minutes? 

My car is traveling at 51 feet per second.  Yours is traveling at 73 feet per second.  I have seen many different charts showing how long it takes, in both time and distance, to stop a car traveling at various speeds.  If it takes us 1 second to realize there’s a problem and 1 second to react, you’ve traveled 156 ft and I’ve traveled 102 feet before we even apply the brakes.  Would the extra 54 feet you’ve traveled be enough to take a child’s life?  Perhaps – but now it gets even worse.  The force of your car is far greater than the speed, since speed magnifies force – or rather, acceleration magnifies force – and remember, that’s what we’re really dealing with here.  It takes deceleration to stop your car before you kill somebody.  Oh, my!  More of those pesky formulas! 

So how far would you travel before you brought your car to a stop?  I don’t know.  It depends on your brakes, the weight of your car, and other factors.  Probably twice the distance of someone traveling at the speed limit – and if a child ran out in front of your car, driving at the speed limit would mean a better chance of avoiding a tragedy.  

As Yvonne and I drove around the island, many cars passed us at speeds at anywhere from 40 to 60 mph.  One of the fastest was a young lady in a Lexus who went flying by us on S Barfield after we left San Marco going south.  

My third wife owned a Lexus – a big 400.  She bought it in the first year that Lexus started selling in the United States.  But my third wife was a stickler for speed limits.  I don’t believe she ever got a ticket.  Her car had beauty, grace, power and style. But I’m a Hyundai kind of guy – and when Miss Whiz went tearing by us doing about 60 I didn’t think about how pretty her car was.  I thought, “Wow!  She’s really moving!”  I was doing 30.  She was going a lot faster.  Would the extra 200-400 feet she would need to stop make a difference in a child’s life?  

How much sooner would she get to where she was going?  Let’s assume that she was going all the way down to the “loop” at the end of Barfield.  She passed us between San Marco and Winterberry.  If we were 1.5 miles from the “loop,” she would get there 90 seconds ahead of us.  Was it worth it? 

Barfield is a relatively “safe” street.  Let’s talk about the most dangerous stretch of road on Marco Island – that stretch of Collier Blvd from Winterberry to Bald Eagle.  Here the cars routinely travel at speeds of 45, 50, 60 and higher. In addition, people turning left don’t always get all of their car into the “safe” area between the north and southbound lanes.  Then there are cars entering the Blvd from both sides, and many trying to “make it to the middle” in order to turn left (sometimes from both directions at the same time).  Cars weave in and out of traffic, even though there are pedestrians trying to cross – at crosswalks and elsewhere.  Cars pull out in front of traffic at very slow speed and cause the cars traveling at 55 to jam on their brakes.  So let’s leave the “formula” and talk about “judgment.”    

In the summer of 1961, I took part in Operation Dominic – the United States testing of nuclear weapons in the Pacific Ocean.  We were part of a huge task force, based on Christmas Island.  A test was conducted about every other day.  No one got hurt, even though we were testing the most powerful weapons mankind had ever seen.  No one except four sailors who didn’t use good judgment.  There was a quarter mile of paved road on Christmas Island – and that’s all it took.  Four sailors “borrowed” a jeep one night, and managed to kill themselves in that quarter mile.   Everybody was kind of somber the next day – and I was struck by the irony of the situation.  We were testing weapons that were designed to kill thousands, or perhaps millions, of people at one stroke – but no one was killed by these weapons.  Instead, a machine that we take for granted every day had done the killing – on a tiny little road on a tiny little island. 

Yvonne and I like to walk over to the little store on Collier Blvd and buy our paper there on Sunday mornings.  As we waited up on the grass of the median to finish our crossing, I saw two cars coming up from the south on Collier at a high rate of speed.  They were definitely going faster than the speed limit, and reminded me of a drag race.  A car pulled out of the parking lot of the store, and turned right in the right-hand lane.  He did everything right, and if the approaching cars had been traveling at 35 mph, there would have been no problem. 

But they were going a lot faster - and then, as so many drivers on Marco Island are inclined to do when they see a car pulling out in front of them or a pedestrian crossing the street, the driver in the right-hand lane sped up.  I have seen this behavior many times, and can only assume that it’s because the driver of the oncoming car doesn’t want anyone to “get ahead” of him.  Yvonne and I had retreated behind two large trees in the median as they approached.  The faster car never slowed down – instead, he cut in front of the car in the left-hand lane, swerved around the car who had pulled out in front of him and began tooting his horn.  “Toot!  toot!  toot! toot! toot!” went his horn in anger as he drove on down Collier.  I looked into his car as he went by, and saw a man who appeared to be in his 60’s or 70’s. 

He had fought and struggled his whole life to “get ahead,” and this was just one more opponent to overcome.  But he had failed.  He hadn’t been fast enough.  The other car had “beaten” him, and he was angry.  It all came out in his horn.  That was all he had left.  No more office.  No more corporation.  No more secretary.  No more staff.  Just his horn – going “toot!  toot!  toot!  toot!”  I have written before in this newsletter about the “misery of the rich” that I see here on Marco Island, but there is also the “misery of the retired executive.”  You’ve fought hard, all of your life, and you’ve won more than you’ve lost – but it’s over. 

You’re retired.  You can relax.  You don’t need to fight anymore.  Hopefully, the man tooting his horn will realize this someday.  It was a beautiful Sunday morning.  There weren’t many cars on Collier Blvd that morning – just two cars that had tried to occupy the same space at the same time.  One car “lost.”  The other “won.”  Silly?  Perhaps.

We hear about “road rage.”  Here on Marco Island, it’s more like “road snit.”  Beautiful days on a beautiful island – but cars full of angry people just waiting for someone to “try something.”  Don’t be so impatient, folks.  Remember the formula.  Rate x Time = Distance.  If it takes you 27 seconds more to get somewhere, who cares?  Slow down.

The final element in this equation is, of course, the police.  Many of my callers blame them for the traffic problems on the island.  “Where are they?” is the question I get most often.  “Why aren’t they enforcing the speed limits?”  Is the next question.  Let’s take a closer look at that.

First of all, let’s remember what the police (and the rest of us) went through during the “police battle” that some of the islanders are still fighting.  Many officers left, and by the time the “police question” was settled back in September, we were down to 17 officers.  I interviewed Chief Jones, and found out that at times they were down to 2 or 3 officers on a shift.  Marco Island then had a problem recruiting police officers, and many of them came from out of state.  Let’s face it folks, whatever the merits of the argument of either side, the “police battle” didn’t do you any good.  You only hurt yourselves with the big fight you foisted on yourselves, and by September you had lost about ¼ of your police force.

Also, try to remember that the police are human beings, just like the rest of us.  They were trying to serve a community that, far from giving them any support, was telling them to get out.  What would happen if they stopped a vocal “anti-police” person?  One day, while shopping at Publix during this time period, I remarked to a man I had never seen before that it was too bad about what was happening with the police.  “Oh, no!” he said.  “I want the police running scared!  That way, I can do what I want!”  He walked away and got into his SUV and, I’m sure, sped down the street. He was about 60 – and he would be the first to complain if the police didn’t protect him.

Chief Jones told me that they added 2 officers in October, 2 in November, 2 in December, and 2 in January.  As the island settled down, Marco Island was once again able to recruit from within the state.  Police talk to each other just the same as anyone else, folks – and the word had gone out.  Let’s hope we have a little better reputation now.  We ask the police to do a little different job than the rest of us do.  We ask them to stop their fellow citizens and tell them they are going to be punished for being “naughty.”  Talk about a thankless job!  Would you want to do it?

Chief Jones explained the work rules of the police to me.  The work rules of both the police and the firemen will be the subject of another newsletter.  For now, just let me say that I wouldn’t question anyone’s work rules.  I’m only interested in results.   How they staff their positions is their business – not mine.

So – having said that, what do I (and my readers) want from the police?  The main thing we want to see is a more visible road patrol in the high-traffic areas of the island.  And by “visible” we mean speeders pulled over to the side of the road, a police car with lights flashing, and an officer writing tickets.  And we want it continued until the speeders get the message and start obeying the speed limits.  I was told by one reader that he was so angry that he was going to start making “citizen’s arrests” on Collier.  He’s in his 70’s.  Let’s hope the cops get there before he does.

I’d like to see the police start by concentrating on Collier Blvd.  We’ve got it all right there.  Road-snit, speeding, tail-gating, reckless driving, etc.  I know the police have been “tolerant,” so far.  I’d like to see that stopped – and not allow the speeders even 5 miles over the posted speed limit.  What?  No warning?   Well,  I’ve seen police in other communities post a “warning period,” then target speeders over 45, then over 40, etc.  But that’s up to them.  My readers just want it done.  If you think the speed limit on Marco Island is too low, raise it.  Otherwise, obey the law. 

We met a young man coming around a curve near the library who was almost driving on two wheels.  I was praying his car would hold the road.  Then there is the legendary lady who was pulled over after doing 90 somewhere on the island.  All of this is bad – but if we don’t do something soon about Collier Blvd and the other high-density traffic areas, there is going to be a tragedy on this island that might have been prevented. 

                                                       GEORGE LESTER


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