Be prepared to stop.

Author:Lo, Sharon
Position:Bookshelf Ideas

Once in a while, DTJ s Bookshelf Review covers non-print media. When I received an email on BE PREPARED TO STOP (BPTS), I instantly knew this would be one of those times. According to the email, BPTS was a documentary "about our dependence on the failing US highway system and challenges faced by the trucking and freight transportation industries."

The documentary opens by describing our interstate highway system and quickly identifies a multitude of issues facing it including overuse, infrastructure that has exceeded its expected lifespan, deficient bridges, crashes, lack of funding, among others.

Truckers are interviewed as they travel down bumpy roads, bouncing up and down as they speak about such roads being prevalent across the US. One young trucker explains that he sometimes crosses a bridge only to think to himself that he hoped he never had to cross it again. This comment made me wonder--is it possible we are losing drivers simply because they don't feel safe on our roads?

Expounding on the issue of deficient bridges, we see poignant news clips of bridge collapses across the US. With one commentator making the ominous assertion that if people were to get out of their cars and actually looked at most US bridges, they would never venture across them.

Another clip on this particular issue shows a 60 Minutes interview with former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood from 2014. Reporter Steve Kroft says that the government has deemed 70,000 bridges structurally deficient, before asking the former secretary what that means. Part of LaHood's answer, "I don't want to say that they're unsafe, but they're dangerous," was less than reassuring.

The problem of faulty bridges, like most of the issues with the federal highway system, is a problem of priorities. The highway trust fund was set up to fund transportation infrastructure without putting the country into debt. But, funding for the highway trust fund has not kept up with need and the public does not support raising taxes. It is also hard to find government leaders willing to support this because, as one commentator supposed, many in congress are afraid of potential political consequences of having their name attached to raising taxes.

Throughout the documentary the issue of public knowledge, or lack thereof, is addressed. The American people want safe, smooth roads and all their purchases delivered to their door, but those same people are often unwilling to pay for improvements and are...

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