Trees Kill is an old aspiration. It was inspired by seeing so many roadside memorials along the Southern State Parkway and elsewhere on Long Island, NY; always on or next to a moderately damaged tree, which continues to sit there, waiting to kill again.
    Sometimes I would see a grieving family gathered by a memorial -- sometimes soon after the accident, sometimes on an anniversary date. (I checked one the next day, to discover two funeral cards stapled to the tree, with the same date of death, a year and a day earlier.) Sometimes they were in their Sunday best
    All I could wonder is, why did the grieving family, in their Sunday best, not bring a chainsaw and use it on that tree? Who could question them? It's the most direct way to make sure that that particular tree will never kill again. Maybe it shouldn't have been allowed to kill in the first place.

    The State makes sure that sign posts, street lighting, and even bridges are cushioned to protect drivers colliding with them. Somehow they are responsible, because they put those things where they are.
    But what about trees? Cars are driving 55+ miles per hour within yards of huge trees. Is the State somehow absolved of any responsibility to protect cars from those trees? Maybe because God put those trees where they are? Maybe those drivers and passengers deserved to die? It's hard to imagine a guiding principle here. They even install guard rails to deter misdirected vehicles from coming to a brutal stop at the bottom of streams and ditches. Why the double standard for trees? How are trees different? Trees are far more common than ditches. Is guard rail, guard cables, or guard posts just too costly to put everywhere (curves and straight sections)? Mario Cuomo used to say "If it saves ONE LIFE, it's worth it." Is that even close to being applied?
    One irony is that the State planted many trees along the highways. In time, they will grow large enough to kill and, inevitably, they will kill people. In such a case, God did not decide the location of the tree, the State did. Is there a way to document which trees have been planted by the State? The State is not going to keep detailed records - they need to deny responsibility. If some private agency could register the coordinates of newly-planted trees, and/or tag them, maybe the information could someday be used to hold the State accountable, just as it can be held accountable for sign posts and bridges that it installs. Is GPS precise enough to uniquely identify a tree?

    The fatality rate on German highways per person-mile is HALF of America's rate. But on their interstate highways, Germans drive TWICE AS FAST as Americans. How can this be true? Maybe the risk of death is proportional to the time spent on the highway? But there's more. German kids legally drink beer and wine in public at age 16; age 14 with a guardian present. So America's strange repeat experiment with Prohibition hardly makes us safer. Germans take driving a bit more seriously, with intensive training. Their rules of the road are stricter. Highway design is probably a factor.

    Sick trees occasionally fall into busy highways, killing people.

    Here are a few collected photos of killer trees, not yet organized.

    Fatal accident story and map Eyewitness account of a fatal accident, Hempstead Turnpike, Levittown NY, April 3, 2012, 9:15pm. With commentary. (No tree involved.)

posted 2012.04.07  last edited 2012.04.15