Friday, April 19, 2019

Most people cannot find where they live on a map...

Listening to NPR in the car today and I heard something alarming. A television weatherman from Alabama was being interviewed. He said that he has come to the conclusion that 60% to 70% of the adult population cannot find their home, or even the town, in which they live on a map. He said this became apparent first on social media. They would get comments when they put up what was a very simple map of the area "that a third grader could understand." They would get comments asking questions like what about (name of town), etc. He then tested his hypothesis when he would talk in front of community groups like Kiwanis, Rotary, etc. He had a white board and would draw the state and county lines on it, without any roads. He then asked people to come up and put a dot on the map "within 50 miles" of where you live. That's where he found that 60% to 70% couldn't do it. They didn't even know where their county was or the names and direction of adjacent counties.

As an urban planner, I am appalled. As a citizen of the United States, I am appalled and worried. These people wouldn't know if they are in a tornado watch/warning area or not. Radar and maps are meaningless to them.

So, you can see the uphill battle when we are dealing with geography and the concept of municipal boundaries. What and where is unincorporated Palm Beach County? My address says "Lake Worth." I think we still have an uphill climb in educating people about the importance of maps, city limits and its potential impact on public safety.