Safe in a world where others are responsible

Fill the landscape with caution signs, but they do little good without personal responsibility.
Fill the landscape with caution signs, but they do little good without personal responsibility.

For a nation that idolizes the rugged individual and raises up self-reliance as an ideal, some among us have no trouble finding someone else to blame.

Stanley Obrecht Jr. in May filed suit against the Village of Glen Carbon because the sidewalk was uneven, Obrecht hit it while riding his bicycle and was hurt. He said the village should pay him $50,000 plus damages and costs because it was negligent for failing to post a warning sign.

First, state law considers bicycles to be part of traffic, so they do not belong on the sidewalk. Second, had the bicyclist been on the road, would there have been an expectation of a warning sign at every pothole and bump?

St. Clair County just paid $150,000 to the mother of a 23-year-old who died in 2010 when she went off the road because the guardrail was missing or damaged or poorly constructed along the Scott-Troy Road. The young woman, Jessica Muniz, was not found until about 17 hours after the crash and when she was her blood alcohol level was 0.10, still above the legal intoxication limit.

While it is very sad, Muniz made a bad decision to drive drunk and paid too high a price. Only lining the entire road with a guard rail, and then monitoring it 24/7, would ensure a car stays on the road. That still does not guarantee the impact with the guard rail will not end tragically.

Two St. Clair County Jail inmates committed suicide within two months of one another in 2014. Both of their families are suing through the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University saying correctional officers failed to stop them and keep them safe.

Sheriff Rick Watson said jail workers followed the law and the rules. If someone is determined to harm himself, how much can another really do to stop them?

You shouldn’t go through life expecting someone else to be responsible for keeping your eyes open while riding a bike, for choosing to stop drinking before driving or for convincing you life is worth living. When those things do happen, it seems too easy to find someone else to blame and make taxpayers responsible.