To mark National Transportation Week, we've been asking readers to think about safety. Whether it's traveling with children, making sure to approach rail crossings with caution, or buckling up every time you climb into a car or truck, safety often comes down to the choices we make.
Our safety also relies on other people's choices, and sometimes people act without thinking about the consequences of their actions, placing others in jeopardy. We saw this last Monday in the Faces of Distracted Driving video about 2-year-old Calli Ann Murray who was killed by a texting driver.
And we saw it 3,592 times in 2011, when people on the ground pointed lasers into the cockpit of an aircraft overhead.
That's right--in 2011 there were 3,592 reports of laser strikes on aircraft in America. That's up dramatically from 2,836 in 2010, and each one of those incidents threatens the safety of passengers and crew.
I understand that the laser pointers and other devices available to consumers are now more powerful and less expensive than ever. But I don't understand the decision to aim one at an aircraft full of people, potentially blinding the pilot and causing tragedy.
The law doesn't understand it either. That's why local, state and federal courts have sentenced laser violators to jail time, community service, probation and additional financial penalties for court costs and restitution.
Recently, for example, a a 23-year-old man pleaded guilty to aiming a laser at a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter. He served 10 days in jail; paid $570 in restitution and $6,700 in an FAA-assessed civil penalty; and was sentenced to 200 hours of community service and three years of probation.
As Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said, “We will continue to fine people who do this, and we applaud our colleagues at the Justice Department who have aggressively prosecuted laser incidents under a new law that makes this a specific federal crime.”
Shining a laser at an airplane is senseless, but it is not harmless. It’s dangerous for both pilots and passengers, and on behalf of the flying public, we can't tolerate it. We just can't.
I applaud the FAA's strong stance against laser strikes, and I hope it helps educate those who would thoughtlessly jeopardize others' safety.