Getting there alive • The Utah Transit Authority threatens to distribute citations for "distracted walking" around TRAX tracks and stations as one piece of a massive safety campaign to reduce the number of transit-related deaths in Utah. But the threat may not be carried out often enough and may not be tough enough. Although the UTA has improved safety and reduced the number of serious injuries and fatalities in 2012 over the previous year, the rate of "serious incidents" has increased. A Salt Lake Tribune reporter witnessed 97 reckless, potentially fatal incidents during just two hours of watching UTA monitors at eight of the system's 41 TRAX stations. UTA citations are punishable by a $50 fine for the first offense and $100 fines for subsequent offenses. Citations costing a $300 fine each and handed out more liberally might just do the trick.
Americans' shorter lifespans • The life expectancy for Americans is below that for residents of 16 other wealthy countries, in part because violence, mostly gun violence, kills Americans at a far greater rate than in any other developed nation. A leading health research institution reports that the United States has six violent deaths per 100,000 residents, triple the rate for the next highest country, Finland. In other countries, the rate was far lower. In addition to shooting ourselves more often than other first-world countries, we are eating ourselves to death more often. Obesity is epidemic in the United State, causing potentially fatal health problems. Among the 17 nations, Americans ranked at the bottom for life expectancy in men and 16th in women's expected longevity. A poor showing for the wealthiest country in the world.
Play for free • Visits to national parks, wildlife refuges, national forests and monuments will be free on certain dates spread throughout 2013. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 21, is the first free-fee day on federal lands in the coming year. Others are: National Park Week, April 22-26; Great Outdoors Day, June 8; National Park Service birthday, Aug. 25; National Public Lands Day, Sept. 28; National Wildlife Refuge Week, Oct. 13; and Veterans Day weekend, Nov. 9-11. The Department of Interior makes the offer to all Americans to encourage use of federal public lands and get more Americans to enjoy the outdoors. It's a great idea, as social media and technology seem to be keeping more of us indoors than ever before. The entrance-fee waivers don't cover some other fees.