For centuries, one set of Ten Commandments was plenty to get the Catholic Church through the day. Thou shalt not kill, no coveting, yadda yadda. You know what I’m talking about.
But earlier this year came an issue so contentious, do divisive, so downright dangerous, that the pope thought it necessary to issue a second Ten Commandments.
And what was this matter of such critical importance to the future of peace and harmony? Driving.
Yep, driving. Apparently, drivers not only in the Las Vegas Valley but worldwide have become such idiots that the pontiff thought divine intervention was needed just to keep us from being dolts while on the go. I kid you not.
According to The Associated Press, the commandments (joined by my comments) are as follows:
No. 1. You shall not kill. (Duh, folks.)
No 2. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm. (Roads are for getting somewhere, not getting killed. See Commandment Numero Uno.)
No. 3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events. (Don’t spaz out, and we’ll all get through this.)
No. 4. Be charitable and help your neighbor in need, especially victims of accidents. (Don’t be a jerk, jerk.)
No. 5. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin. (You wanna quit tailgating me?)
No. 6. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so. (Call ’em a cab.)
No. 7. Support the families of accident victims. (Be nice.)
No. 8. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness. (Say ”sorry” once in a while.)
No. 9. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party. (Giving that bicyclist more than three inches between you and the curb would be a start.)
No. 10. Feel responsible toward others. (Some Las Vegans will require a lobotomy to meet this goal.)
Of course, it’s easy for the pope to spout off some driving tips. He’s got that fancy popemobile and all. When’s he ever had to drive in Vegas, where the Wild West is very much alive behind every other steering wheel?
So we asked some local traffic gurus what they thought of the missive. At first, Erin Breen of the UNLV Safe Community Partnership, a traffic safety advocacy group, didn’t know what to think.
"When I first saw it, I thought it was a joke," Breen said. "It’s tragic that the Vatican thought they needed to get involved, that it’s that out of hand."
Agreed, said trooper Kevin Honea of the Nevada Highway Patrol.
"I think that they probably realize we’re losing more people on the roadways than we are to murders," he said. "It’s a big problem not just in the Las Vegas Valley, but worldwide."
Which commandments are especially important for drivers to heed?
All of ’em, Honea said.
"As you were going down the list, I’m going, ‘Yep, yep,’" he told me. "If we all could drive with some or all of those (commandments) in mind, I think you’d see a much different commuting experience" here.
Breen said many of the commuting commandments are sadly obvious.
"It’s kind of like (the phrase), ‘Everything you need to know, you learned in kindergarten,’" she said. "All of them relate to traffic laws. Unfortunately, in Las Vegas we don’t pay attention to those laws too much."
Said Honea: "The people that don’t adhere to those same qualities, they tend to stick out."
Breen loved the simplicity the commandments brought to the issue of driving safety.
"How wonderful that it’s put in terms that are so much easier to understand than the legalities," she said. "I thought this generated an awful lot of positive thought on how we treat each other on our roads. I’ve long contended that if we were more polite to each other on the roads, we’d see a lot fewer fatalities."
It’s important that drivers not only expect other passers-by to heed the commandments, Breen said, but stick to the traffic tips themselves.
"The reality is, people have got to see themselves in this equation," Breen said. "They have to open their eyes and take their own responsibility for their driving."
And if everybody did that, Honea thinks driving valley streets would be heavenly.
"I think the valley would be a much nicer place to commute if we took those (traffic commandments) to heart," Honea said.
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The northbound U.S. Highway 95 onramp and offramp at Jones Boulevard are closed to allow road work. The offramp will remain closed through Aug. 18, while the onramp will stay shut until late summer. Drivers can instead access the highway at Rainbow Boulevard or Decatur Boulevard. Interstate 15 near the Nevada-Arizona border will have lane reductions Monday afternoons through Friday mornings between 3 p.m. and 3 a.m. to allow paving work. Drivers can expect delays and are advised to carry drinking water through the work zone. A new traffic signal is active at Tropical Parkway and Camino Eldorado in North Las Vegas. Drivers should use caution while adjusting to new traffic patterns in that area. Drivers can expect overnight shutdowns of Interstate 15 in Victorville, Calif., to allow road work from the night of Aug. 13 through the morning of Aug. 17 from 8 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. to allow bridge work. During the shutdowns, traffic will be diverted off and right back onto the freeway at Mojave Drive. Drivers should expect minor delays.