ROADS REPORT: Safety is no accident

The safest risk is the one you don’t take, especially when it comes to drunken driving, crime and strippers

Blog Entry August 14, 2012

David Matthews has been chronicling the unexpectedly humorous side of transportation news for his Roads Report column since 2000. The stories are all true.

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If that don’t take the cake
If you find yourself in the men’s room of a Michigan bar around closing time this summer, don’t be alarmed if you hear strange voices talking to you. It’s probably just your urinal cake.

In an effort to curb drunken driving over the Fourth of July holiday, Michigan State Police distributed 400 talking urinal cakes to 200 bars and restaurants throughout the state.

As patrons stumbled up to the urinals at participating establishments, a recorded voice from the motion-sensitive Wizmark “Interactive Urinal Communicators” declared:
“Listen up! That’s right, I’m talking to you. Had a few drinks? Maybe a few too many? Then do yourself and everyone else a favor: Call a sober friend or a cab. Oh, and don’t forget to wash your hands.”

The talking deodorizers cost Michigan taxpayers about $21 apiece and are expected to last around three months.

The new strategy is already proving to be more cost-effective than the state’s previous experiment of posting mothers-in-law outside bathroom doors: “Don’t you think two drinks is enough, young man? I’d say your waistline agrees with me. Go back and wash your hands and then let’s go say goodnight to your friends.”  

A berry bad decision
One state that might consider talking urinal cakes is Oregon, where a commercial truck driver lied to his employer about being kidnapped in order to cover up that he got drunk on the job and couldn’t continue driving.

Thomas Conner, 33, was supposed to be hauling frozen berries in June when he texted his bosses and told them that he had been taken hostage by two men with guns. Conner said the men took his keys and told him to stay with the truck until they returned to steal it. (Berries were in season, after all.)

The trucking company immediately called police, who scrambled to locate the truck. It was eventually spotted on I-5 with the hood up and emergency flashers on. Conner was found a quarter mile down the road walking away from the truck with an unknown man.

An open cocktail container and whiskey bottle were found back at the semi, and Conner’s blood alcohol level was four times the legal limit.

Police quickly deduced what had happened. Clearly the organized crime family that took Conner hostage made him drink enough alcohol to discredit his eventual accusations, allowing them to traffic the stolen berries while Conner took the rap. You can’t make this stuff up.

Friendly new neighbors
“Who are the people in your neighborhood? The people that you meet each day?”

So went the classic 1970s Sesame Street song about the different jobs that our neighbors have. Well now the residents of a real Sesame Street in Miami are about to get some new neighbors with rather interesting professions.

The North Miami City Council voted in June to overturn an ordinance prohibiting both alcohol and full nudity in the same venue, clearing the way for a proposed new strip club to open on Sesame Street, ironically right next to public television station WPBT, which broadcasts the long-running children’s show throughout South Florida.

“We are concerned about what’s going to happen next door,” WPBT CEO Rick Schneider told “We have school groups and kids that come here . . . We don’t think it’s appropriate.”

To be fair, though, Big Bird doesn’t wear pants either.

Perhaps it’s time to add a new verse to that old classic: “The stripper is a person that you meet / When you’re walking down the street / She’s a person in our neigh-bor-hood!” R&B

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