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March 07, 2005


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This is about 70-degrees divergent from the original topic but I think somewhere along the way the points of convergence are critical.

Is it just me, or is there less and less respect among drivers for flashing lights?

Turn signals, road hazard warnings, traffic control lights, but above all the spinning lights of an emergency vehicle. So far this calendar year I've seen half a dozen instances of ambulances or firetrucks with lights -- and sirens -- active just moving with traffic; that is, without the traffic moving out of the main lanes and stopping for the priority vehicle. I've seen one police car have to pull alongside a moving car, shouting thru a rolled down window, apparently making dire threats, in order to make it clear he wanted the driver to pull over. All this in a peace-time relatively well-ordered environment.

Taking the driver's viewpoint, there are an awful lot of non-emergency vehicles that seem to have evolved adaptive camoflauge and mimicry of official emergency vehicle flashers. The chase vehicles behind wide loads. Civilian/commercial Courtesy "road side assitance" vehicles. Street sweepers, mowers, construction equipment. Even SUVs with fog lights and I dunno, frog giggin' lights. Lot of fixtures riding on top of a lot of cabs. It all does sort of dilute the impact of the old prowl car's bubble gum light.

But even so, there does seem to be an increasing attitude that "they can't mean me." Few slow for the yellow flashing construction lights, few stop for flashing red school bus lights, and the blue/red/white flashers of cop cars and ambulances seem to mean that one probably ought not drive on the graveled road shoulders -- the cops'll be wanting that lane.

Coming back to a situation where a tradition of respecting and cooperating with law enforcement vehicles is not long-standing tradition ... I'm wondering what sorts of signals would correctly convey to a driver the message -- "Stop, or I'll blow you away!" -- sufficiently unambiguously. And how one would go about preventing unauthorized law-breaking forces from using the same signal? (in the way that car-bombers' vehicle of choice is some jurisdictions is the ambulance.)

What sort of "warning shot" can be seen and heard from inside a closed, moving car at night from a distance of over a hundred meters?

I would like to think after a couple of years these sorts of issues had already been well thought out but I don't see it. On the other hand, I don't think simple techniques could easily solve the problem -- which is essentially one of somehow displaying a "badge".


I'd just like to bring up the courage and the bravery that many Italians, not only Calipari, have shown during this war.

Bernard Guerrero

"I'd just like to bring up the courage and the bravery that many Italians, not only Calipari, have shown during this war."

Well said.


Claudia, I already made these comments on Fistful, but I will add them here as well:Claudia, it is a baffling story, but coincidentally I was *in* Baghdad at the time (returning for a couple of weeks' work), exiting on the same airport road [Route Irish] the very next night (4 March). My thoughts, for what they are worth:* I'm surprised that no one has mentioned that nearly the entire Baghdad garrison has been switched out in the past couple weeks: the 1st Cavalry Division has cycled back home, and the 3rd Infantry Div has relieved them. Everybody in Baghdad knows these guys are getting used to their new responsibilities and are very twitchy...if I were Calipari and the others, I'd think hard about even the slightest acceleration within sight of a checkpoint.* Route Irish is the most dangerous stretch of road on the planet. The only way I would want to take it (if a chopper isn't available) would be the way I did the next night: ride a "Rhino Rider" (basically a heavily armored bus) with humvees ahead and behind, and two Apaches flying cover just above. Why the Italian intelligence officers chose to escort Sgrena out in a sedan rather in the Rhino Rider convoy outlined above is a total mystery to me. Maybe Sgrena complained that her journalistic status (and her 'victim of war' status) shouldn't be tainted by cooperation with the Americans she obviously disdained, even post-release, and Calipari et al. reluctantly complied.* It is quite probable that Calipari et al., while trained intel agents, were not experienced or fully briefed on Route Irish procedures. Why should they be? They aren't in the habit of escorting ex-hostages to BIAP every day; driving that road is a specialized task for dedicated private security firms and the Army unit specifically tasked with it.

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