A few seconds are worth another Christmas.

Image for post
Image for post
I captured this during my commute.

I’ve noticed a spate of accidents lately. Not all of them are as bad as this one, but it seems like I’m seeing them more and more often. Just look at the dent in the side of the overturned car. You can very clearly see the impression made by the other car.

Those people in the crash, their lives are changed forever. They will never be the same as they were before the crash. They will spend time in the hospital, months in physical therapy, perhaps months waiting for their insurance claims to be paid, maybe even years in litigation. All for a few seconds of haste. A difference of less than a second might have been enough to prevent the crash.

I’m all about safety first, everywhere. When I drive I make a few simple assumptions. Nobody knows that I’m here and nobody can see me. I give everyone a wide berth. I can wait a few more seconds before I make a left turn. If someone else is in the car, telling me when I can make a left turn, I ignore them. I’m the one with the wheel in my hands, my foot on the brake and I’m responsible for the safety of everyone in the car. And I’d really like to see Christmas this year, with my family.

I’ve heard the stories from my parents, too. They’ve seen big accidents. My dad lost friends to motorcycles. I was in an accident with my Mom and my siblings. We were rear-ended by another car in our humble VW Bug. Nobody was seriously hurt, but my mom wore a neck brace for a while.

So I’m prompt. I like to be early wherever I go on a schedule. I don’t like to be late, as I don’t like the attention that draws to me. I have enough time to get there, and I make that time for the trip.

I like to plan on arriving at my destination 15–20 minutes early. I do this just in case there is an accident, a detour, or some other contingency. Most of my trips are not on a schedule. But I have a daily commute and I make it a point to leave and arrive early. And when I go home, I’m not in a hurry to get there. At least, not in such a hurry as to take a risk of collision.

On that street in the picture, I’m heading westbound. The black car was heading southbound and the speed limit on that road is 65 miles per hour. The driver of the black car was probably braking furiously at the time of impact, but still, there was enough momentum enough to put that dent in the side of the overturned car.

When I’m stopped at that light I wait and look, even when the light turns green. I wait and look because I know that sometimes, people will blow the red light. I know also that the yellow light there is four seconds, not three. I also know that there is a one-second pause between the time that the southbound light turns red and the westbound light turns green. That should be enough time for cross traffic to wait for southbound traffic to clear the intersection.

Driving is generally boring for me. So I read the traffic. I am operating on those assumptions that I made above. As I’m driving, I’m making educated guesses about the options other drivers have available to them. I’m considering their place relative to mine in traffic. Will they change lanes? Do they want to change lanes? I give them room if they want to change lanes. I always make room for the big rigs merging onto the freeway. I just find that traffic flows better when I do.

I got my learners permit when I was 15 and a half, and my license at 16. I have been driving since I was 17 after I bought my first car. My parents taught me to drive. We had hot rods, 454 Chevy Chevelles and El Caminos. My parents paid for the driving lessons and I passed the driving tests on the first try. I am grateful to my parents for having faith in my ability to learn to drive.

I always use the seatbelt. I have read numerous stories of people being ejected from the car. My dad used to point to the windshield and tell us kids, that if we don’t wear the seatbelt and we’re in a crash, we could go right through that window. That was enough to get me to buckle up. I don’t need a law, or threat of a fine, as an incentive to wear a seatbelt. Self-preservation is enough incentive for me.

I still have that incentive. A few years ago, I was driving and I noticed that I felt “loose” in the seat. Like I had no control over my body relative to the motion of the car. That was because, for a few minutes, I did not have my seatbelt on. I wear the seatbelt because I have better control over the car that way.

We have airbags in our cars because a few “freedom-minded” people refused to wear seatbelts. They were willing to impose the costs of their stupidity on the rest of us. I have never understood their logic since very strong and smart professional race car drivers wear a 5-point seatbelt. When you’re on a track doing better than 200 MPH on the straight, you want something that holds you fast to your seat so that you have leverage over the steering wheel. That is why I wear a seatbelt. I want that leverage and point of reference.

So drive safe, people. A few seconds of waiting for a left turn is worth another Christmas.

Write on.

Written by

Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

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