Deadly Stupidity: Government Roads in Deer Country

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Recently
by Rev. H. R. Curtis: A
Veteran Worth Celebrating

 

 
 

Last week I
drove my family from the St. Louis metro area to Indianapolis along
Interstate 70 for a Thanksgiving gathering. Not far into Indiana
I saw a sign of the stupidity of government roads – literally, it
was a sign advertising the fact. On the large median (8.23 acres)
dividing the east and west bound lanes of I-70 a sign notified me
that a "hardwood forest" was planted there in 2002. Even
zipping along at 70 mph I could tell that several of the trees were
white and red oaks. I can identify those trees because, as an avid
deer hunter, I am very interested in them. White oaks produce acorns
with a low tannin content that make for a whitetail’s favorite food.
Red oaks, while higher in tannin, produce acorns even in years when
white oaks have lost theirs due to a late spring frost, thus providing
a back up food source in bad years.

In other words,
the government encouraged a food plot for deer to be planted between
four lanes of vehicles moving at well over a mile a minute. As you
can see from the satellite
image
, the planting created an irresistible magnet for deer.
On either side of the highway are agricultural fields that rotate
between corn and soybeans year to year, a small creek, and wooded
areas father back. Before the planting, deer would have been much
less likely to cross the road as they could feed in the fields and
then retreat to cover on the same side of the highway. In a few
years when the trees mature and begin bearing mast, the deer will
be tempted to go straight ahead to cover and food across the road.

According
to State Farm Insurance Company there were over 35,000
vehicle-deer collisions in Indiana
in a 12 month period ending
in June 2009 (predictably enough, the Indiana
State Police estimate that there were "only" 16,225
).
All across the country these collisions lead to serious injuries,
death, and untold property damage in the neighborhood
of $1 billion
. If you refer to the chart linked to above from
State Farm, you can see that where I reside (Illinois), one out
of every 228 vehicles will collide with a deer this year. If you
live in West Virginia, one out of every 39 vehicles will suffer
a similar fate on the government’s roads.

Would any businessman
trying to maintain a profit on a privately owned road choose to
decrease the safety of his customers by inviting deer to cross in
front of fast moving vehicles? Furthermore, who in his right mind
would plant famously stout oak trees were a car was likely to run
into one if the driver should lose control?

Crony capitalists
in league with government functionaries, of course. The
trees I saw on I-70
were planted with grant monies from the
Hardwood Forestry Fund, a group that funds "tree planting and
forest management programs on public land to create healthy, abundant
new hardwood forests." In other words, the timber
industry
gives money for trees to be planted on government owned
land that they can later harvest for a profit — with the government
getting their cut, of course. What a novel subsidy! So green! So
renewable!

So deadly.
This ill-placed hardwood forest must certainly rise to the level
of willful negligence. One would think that an enterprising personal
injury lawyer could make a small fortune the next time somebody
dies or is seriously injured by striking a deer between mile markers
43.6 and 45 on I-70. Adequate safety rails, sand pits along the
lines of runaway ramps in the Rockies, or even nothing at all are
just the beginning of the list of things that a private road proprietor
would have an incentive to place between lanes of traffic in deer
country. Choosing instead to actively create a new danger (colliding
with stout oaks) and increasing an existing danger (deer collision)
is something that only the infallibly unresponsive State could come
up with.

Until the roads
in America are privatized
there will be no incentive for safety
to improve. Monopolies are insulated from the needs and desires
of their prisoner-customers. A death or injury on the roads costs
the government bureaucrats in charge of the roads next to nothing
— while timber contracts and political points scored with environmentalist
lobbies can be quite lucrative. Contrariwise, in a free-roads system,
the proprietor of the road has a market incentive to increase his
customers’ safety.

If the appalling
rate of death
and injury on America’s roads is to improve, free
enterprise and market forces must be brought to bear. In other words,
the roads much be privatized. Until then, watch out for deer on
I-70.

December
2, 2010

Rev.
H. R. Curtis [send him mail]
is a Lutheran (LCMS) pastor in rural Illinois and the editor
of Daily
Divine Service Book: A Lutheran Daily Missal
, the only English-language
daily missal in the Lutheran tradition. The book is available in
both paperback
and hardcover.

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