Fast cars and the open road have been celebrated in American culture since the invention of the automobile. But today the relationship is showing signs of strain, particularly in the city of Los Angeles, California.
In Los Angeles, the average time a driver spends in traffic amounts to an astounding two and a half weeks per year.
VOA’s George Dwyer recently met a man with a unique perspective on the city’s traffic gridlock.
Around Los Angeles they call Kenny Morse, Mr. Traffic. “Welcome to my world: the Los Angeles freeway system, the number one most congested traffic city in the United States of America, as you can see," Kenny says.
He cites the vehicle code for how loud the speakers are permitted to play.
"California vehicle code 27007 if you can hear a radio from a radius of 50 feet, they can not only ticket you they can confiscate your speakers," he says. "California is the capital of anything automotive, and Southern California, Los Angeles in particular, that's the car capital of the car capital.”
Kenny Morse came to Los Angeles from New York some 20 years ago, looking for a career in film or television. He could never have guessed he would find it as Mr. Traffic on local cable television.
"We’ve got a lot to talk about here on Mr. Traffic, and weve been doing it for, as I say, this is our 14th year here on Adelphia Cable," says Kenny, speaking on his TV show.
During that time, traffic congestion in the city of Los Angeles has gone from bad to worse, to The Worst.
Dennis Zine, a former highway patrolman, is now a city councilman in L.A.
"We now recognize that we lead the nation, if not the world, in traffic congestion. For the 18th consecutive year we are the worst in the country," he said.
Coping with the heavy road traffic is a central reality of existence in Los Angeles. But few motorists have devoted their lives to studying, and understanding it. In fact, we can only think of one.
"All I do is learn, learn, learn, learn, and through the e-mails and information that I get on the web I’ve now become an expert on not only the laws and regulations of California and the United States of America, but actually worldwide, says Kenny Morse. "Everyone who flies past me, I say: 'Whoo-hoo! See you in traffic school.'"
Kenny's expertise has earned him a post as an official traffic safety instructor in L.A., where he uses his performance skills to drive home the hard realities of unsafe driving. He tells a student, "Dead is nature's way of telling you: You messed up!"
"People come into my traffic school class because of one basic reason: they want to avoid the insurance consequences for the traffic citation they've been issued," he says. "In California if you get issued a ticket you can attend an eight-hour traffic school class and get the ticket wiped off your record, therefore no insurance consequences. They think they're coming to beat the insurance rap, they are, but, I sneak the learning in on them.
"This is my 17th year as Mr. Traffic," he continues. "If you hear me say something in this room, bank on it. I have to know more than a cop, I have to know more than a judge, I have to know more than a lawyer. There is nobody, there is nobody who knows more about this stuff than I do. In the state of California the number one cause of car crashes is tailgating. So everyone is right on top of everyone else. Well, not me."
Any questions? Ask Mr. Traffic.