Street Talk

Street Talk: Division drivers are in for an education, first

Scratch offs.

August 29, 2014
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Wyoming Chief of Public Safety Jim Carmody shared some good news with the Business Journal last week, good for all motorists who commute in and out of GR via South Division Avenue — the Wyoming stretch of it anyway.

The advent of the Silver Line bus rapid transit on South Division last week brought home the fact that, on weekdays, Division now will have only one lane in each direction available for motorists during the two-hour “rush hours” in the morning and late afternoon. 

The Silver Line buses will “own” the right lanes, north and southbound, for their exclusive use at those times.

Everyone has heard that drivers who scoff at the Silver Line buses and use those lanes anyway during the rush hours will be ticketed and perhaps also have penalty points added to their license. But how much and how many was left up in the air by the local police departments.

We asked Carmody just how tough his cops are going to be on South Division drivers.

Noting that a lot of workday commuters have driven a lot of years on South Division, Carmody said some of those motorists will undoubtedly forget at some point and go cruising along in the restricted lanes.

“We’re going to focus on education,” he said, indicating there won’t be any tickets handed out in the first week or so — at least not in Wyoming.

But as The Rapid CEO Peter Varga reminded some in the media, those spiffy new buses also come equipped with a camera mounted to the top — perfect placement for, say, catching license plate numbers on vehicles puttering along directly in front of the rapid transit service.

Road safety

As if Carmody and Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky (see today’s Inside Track) didn’t already have enough on their plates, now there is a new report that shows Grand Rapids’ drivers have a less than stellar record for the number of car collisions.

Allstate Insurance Co. recently released its annual America’s Best Drivers Report, which measures driving safety in the country’s 200 largest cities.

According to the report, the average driver in Grand Rapids will experience an auto accident about once every 8.8 years. 

While that doesn’t sound too bad, it should be noted that those statistics place Grand Rapids at 116th on the list.

This year, new data uncovers how these cities rank when factors like population size, population density and precipitation are considered. 

Based on those metrics, Grand Rapids ranks 128th, 93rd and 114th, respectively.

“It is vital for us to educate American drivers about driving that will help make our roadways safer,” said Gary Heslinga, Allstate sales leader for Michigan. 

“Minimizing distractions, obeying traffic laws, and using your car's safety features like turn signals and headlights, are all ways to be safer, no matter where you drive,” he said.

So which city is the best when it comes to safe driving? 

That honor goes to Fort Collins, Colo., which holds the top spot for the fourth time in the report’s 10-year history. Fort Collins drivers experience an auto collision once every 14.2 years. It turns out the national average is 10 years between collisions. 

Rounding out the top five are: Brownsville, Texas; Boise, Idaho; Kansas City, Kan.; and Huntsville, Ala.

Save the date

When Carol Lopucki leaves her position as director of the Michigan Small Business Development Center (no more Technology!) at the end of the year, the state will have some pretty big shoes to fill.

Lopucki’s years of experience at the helm, combined with her personal business acumen, will be difficult to replace.

But she’s probably got a lifetime’s worth of stories built up, and here’s your chance to pry some of those out of her.

Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University is hosting a retirement party for Lopucki from 4-7 p.m. Nov. 21. You’d better plan to get there early because if even one person from each of the businesses she has helped over the years shows up, the place will be packed.

Scratch pads

The Kent County Health Department isn’t urging anyone to run out and get “body art” — but if you must, don’t go to a scratcher.

The Health Department tells us that tattoo parties or so-called “freelance home artists” — often referred to as “scratchers” — are operating illegally, and the folks getting decorated are exposed to a greater risk of disease or infection than at a licensed tattoo/piercing parlor.

Our state government actually has a “body art” website — michigan.gov/bodyart (we’re not making this up) — maintained by the Michigan Department of Community Health. 

After being welcomed to the “Body Art Facility Licensing site,” we learn that Public Act 375 of December 2010 indicates that individuals shall not tattoo, brand or perform body piercing on another individual unless that tattooing, branding or body piercing occurs at a body art facility licensed by MDCH. 

The owner or operator of the shop must get the license from the MDCH.

Shane Green, a supervisor sanitarian at the Health Department, notes that the required license applies to an actual facility, not to any individual person who is a “tattoo artist.”

The law is aimed at decreasing the risk of transmission of blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The Kent County Health Department says many legitimate body art artists who know of illegal operators tip off the local police in an effort to have them shut down.

“The law protects consumers by ensuring that artists receive specific safety training before performing body art procedures,” said Adam London, health officer at KCHD.

Recently, according to the county, the FDA issued a recall of tattoo ink after unopened containers were found to have bacterial contamination. 

Tattoo artists at licensed shops would get that news from the government regulators, but scratchers may not know they are using contaminated ink.

Green said there are about 30 licensed shops in Kent County. Those who are interested can find out if a body art facility is licensed at michigan.gov/bodyart.

There are a lot of requirements that have to be met at each shop, up to and including a list of licensed waste haulers for removing hazardous materials.

“Be an informed consumer,” London said. 

“If you are thinking about body art, ask all of the right questions and know how to protect yourself from infection or disease. Make sure your art is not something you will regret.”

“Body art” in Michigan includes body piercing — with the exception of the ear lobes. For some reason, no law is required for ear lobe art. 

But if you want to be tattooed, branded or scarified (as in “scars”), it can and must be done at a licensed shop, according to Green.

Happy branding!

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