Am I Getting Across to You?

I have been following a newspaper story about an 82-year-old woman who couldn't hoof it across a Los Angeles intersection quickly enough to beat the light. She got a $114.00 ticket for jaywalking. There have been occasions when I've been tardy too, and a couple of friends will never make the longer crossings on time.

Who Needs Time?
The arresting officer's account differs somewhat from Ms. Mayvis Colye's (she the one who got busted). It she did indeed shuffle off the curb against the DON'T WALK signal, then TUT! Thing is, most pedestrian crossing lights are timed to accommodate the walking pace of some average group. You get about 27 seconds between Walk and Stay Put. I have zero quarrel with that calculation.

But there are non-average people needing to cross a street too. Who might they be? The elderly. Women with a baby in a stroller and a toddler by the hand. Paraplegics in low-tech wheelchairs. Those who've been just assigned their first pair of crutches. And the blind might need a few more seconds to hit the far sidewalk.

Slowpokes regularly get hit in the fanny too, when the pressure switches under the mat (in New Hampshire, until something fails catastrophically it's got a job for life) or the photoelectric presence sensor loses interest in who's heading out the door and closes it too soon.

An Existing Solution—and Mine
Some crossing lights, such as those near senior centers, have a longer clock. Well and good. And keep in mind that the handicapped can request and receive special license plates or hang tags that allow them to park in specially marked spaces.

So here's my idea. RFID tags could be devised, developed, and handed out free to those who need a little more time getting over Pleasant Street to the bakery. Those who need them know they do, and there would be no great stigma associated with clipping them onto a piece of clothing, the way you wear those little badges you're issued when you visit a client company.

(Interestingly, just after I wrote this I learned that the runners in today's Boston Marathon will have chips embedded in their bibs that will allow scanners to track them through the first aid tents and on into local hospitals should they need medical attention. The race organizers don't want anyone to get lost in the shuffle.)

The tags I'm proposing would send a signal to a receiver in the controller that runs the traffic lights (like those that allow a left turn every 20 minutes or so). The pedestrian's or wheelchair operator's signal would be detected and the vehicular traffic would be kept waiting until everyone's off the street.

The only information in that clip-on tag would be just that: Permit to Take a Little Extra Time. No personal data. No chance for function creep. So a black market serving Spaldeen players would be unlikely. By extension, this smart little tag could keep your keister—and the rest of you—from being shot into the MegaMart's parking lot.

Anyone with me on this?

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