Not everyone can grow up to be a racecar driver. But this is America and, by George, anyone can grow up stupid enough to be run over and killed by a racecar driver. And I have proof of this, because that’s just what happened at an off-road race in the desert in California about a week and a half ago.
What happened was, these people went out to watch this off-road race, and a lot of them were standing along the road, and the racing vehicles were going by about two feet away, at upwards of 800 miles per hour. One of the pickups went out of control and into the crowd, and spectators went every which way like bowling pins. Eight of them were killed outright, and a dozen were injured.
A great tragedy, no question, although there was really no one to blame but the victims themselves. The news people went on and on about how terrible it was, and their main focus of attention, the question they asked of every person they interviewed about the event, was, "Weren’t there laws against these people standing so close to the race route?"
This got me to thinking, which is not all that good a situation, but there you go. Why should there be a law against people standing right next to a racetrack where cars are zipping by? Why are these reporters so incredulous about this? And why don’t we have races like that in Texas?
The reporters just could not accept that someone had not taken steps to protect these idiots from themselves. They thought surely someone had dropped the ball and allowed these people to watch from a restricted area, or else such a Bad Thing could not have happened. The truth, of course, is that if people are dumb enough to take stupid risks and maybe die just to have fun, it’s their own business. There’s no reason for the government to get involved at all, yet our bureaucrats seem to think, and the media seems to agree, that one of government’s jobs is to protect us from ourselves. The seatbelt law is a good example.
Seatbelts save lives, no question. But if people want to take risks, it is most definitely not the government’s job to tell them they can’t. And if you’re going to fine people for not wearing seatbelts, why not fine them for doing other dangerous, life-threatening things, like skydiving?
Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, you have to admit, is not what you could call a safe activity. I can understand why someone would quit a plane if it was on fire, or if the engine(s) had stopped working, or if there were large, scaly reptiles on board trying to swallow everyone. It makes perfect sense to jump out and take your chances in such a situation. But if there’s nothing wrong with the aircraft, and no one has a gun to my head, I figure it’s a better bet to give landing a shot. Probably.
But there are people who routinely take off in planes with no intention of being on them when they come back to earth. They purposely risk life, limb, and Fruit of the Looms for a minute of falling and, hopefully, a minute of floating, and they even pay real, American dollars for the privilege.
The 2010 National Skydiving Championships of Canopy Piloting will be held at Skydive Spaceland, a 130-acre park near Houston, Labor Day weekend. I had no idea there was such a contest, but then, when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Once in a while a parachute is bound to fail, so the skydiver becomes a ground diver, and ends up denting someone’s patio. Of course people are going to want to see that, just like they have to rubberneck at wrecks and fires and such.
My point, which you have probably forgotten by now, is that skydiving is perfectly legal, and racing jazzed up pickups in the desert of California is perfectly legal, and even riding a motorcycle without a helmet is legal, and yet driving down a deserted street in a car at ten miles per hour without wearing a seatbelt is against the law. Unless you’re a kid on a school bus, in which case you don’t need a seatbelt. You don’t have to take my word for all this – you can look it up.
Now the talking heads in the Granola State are considering a ban on desert racing, just because of this one little accident. They are NOT talking about banning skydiving, or motorcycles, or bobbing for apples.
My question is this – If our lawmakers are so insane they are worried about seatbelts but are OK with skydiving, why is anyone surprised that regular people, who are not deemed smart enough to make laws, are stupid enough to stand so close to a racetrack that they get run over and killed by the racers?
I guess, when you get right down to it, skydiving seems perfectly intelligent when compared with being a member of congress . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who never jumps more than two feet without a parachute. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org