Friday, October 12, 2007

More on 511 - potential pitfall to avoid

Last night I was at home getting my wife's new cell phone configured for bluetooth.  I wanted to try it out.  I first dialed an automatic time and temperature number and it did fine.  Then being the good traffic engineer I am, I issued the command: CALL 511.  The voice recognition SW in my ear said, "Did you say 911?"  However witht he TV on in the room my first thought was that it did say '511' and all was fine.  I said 'YES' then it registered that it actually said '911.'  Being formerly an employee of a company that write 911-related dispatch management software I am intimately aware that improper '911' calls are considered anathema.  I frantically pushed the call button on my bluetooth imediately then opened the phone and pressed the off button.  The response was not immediate and a 4 second call to 911 occurred.  I hoped nothing woufl happen but within 5 seconds the cell phone rang and my heart sunk.  It was an effici ent Alpharetta Police Dispatcher asking if all was okay - they had received a call.  I apologized and admitted that the voice recognition took my '511' as '911.'  That was the end of that.
What does this mean?  I suggest that one proceed with care when you dial '511' using Bluetooth. 
On a related matter, I was at the meeting of ITS Georgia yesterday at Southern Polytech Univ.   the speaker was the outgoing commissioner of the Georgia DOT.  During the Q/A session an audience member asked him about 511 in terms of drivers using cell phones.  It is a subject I have thought about myself. The commissioner suggested that in his observation, 90% of the erratic drivers seem to be on the cell phone.  He also mentioned how regulating this is a freedom issue and is unpopular.  He did not really tie cell phone use to 511 but the understood presedent is that people will use cell phones anyway and hopefully the drivers will use them carefully or let a passenger dial for them.

Monday, October 01, 2007

A case for 511

I was driving back from visiting my mom in Missisippi yesterday and was on I-20 between Birmingham an Anniston.  There was a wreck on the Coosa River bridge and westbound traffic (not my way!) was backed up for 4-5 miles.  Georgia just got 511 going this year but Alabama does not have its system going yet. A research study said one could be up by 2005 but it did not occur.
All states are supposed to have 511 by 2011.
Looking at this backup the drivers are helpless and depend on local radio (what's that in this age of corporate radio?) to know about such events.  I come to realize that in rural areas, the ability to give drivers advance word on such events and give recommended detours is of high importance.--JKG