Florida Department of Transportation Sponsors NASCAR; $175K Wasted

Up north this weekend, they did that thing with the cars, a whole lot of them, going vroom vroom, around and around and around and around, in the big wide circle, and everyone cheering for five minutes and then they drink MGD, and country music and America and white people -- you know what we're talking about, right?

Anyway, you probably don't pay much attention to what happens at Daytona if you don't go in for that kind of thing as a lifestyle choice. But what was notable about this year's race (in a noncrash sort of way) was who was fronting the bill for one of the cars: you.

The Florida Department of Transportation shelled out $175,000 to sponsor Joe Nemechek's
car over the weekend. His vehicle was printed up with "Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow," the name of the state's campaign to raise awareness for pedestrian safety.

Now, there's a pretty clear intellectual misfire going on here -- trying to raise awareness for road safety through a sport that is all about going as fast as possible, no doubt inspiring hundreds of wannabe speed demons who could give a shit about pedestrian safety.

And $175,000 seems like a lot of coin down the toilet on this one -- we can think of a couple of patches of I-95 that could have used the money. Or they could have just thrown it in the middle of the Daytona track in small bills and burned it all there. That's probably how much good it did communicating road safety to the NASCAR faithful.

But switching over into the serious gear, this is a particularly important issue here in Florida that needs attention. In 2011, when the nonprofit  Transportation for America broke down the most dangerous metro areas for pedestrians nationwide, Florida locations were in the first four spots of the top five: the Orlando area came in first, followed by Tampa, Jacksonville, and Miami-Fort Lauderdale. Those statistics were compiled after the group sorted through data from 2000 to 2009. 

"So much of Florida has been built up so quickly in that era of the automobile-oriented design; it's this sort of the boomer phenomenon," the group's David Goldberg told the New York Times in 2011. "The tendency there has been to build the big wide arterials; you have these long superblocks and you can get up to a good speed."

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Kyle Swenson
Contact: Kyle Swenson