“People who don't want to think about outlawing handguns haven't seen firsthand the kind of damage they do." -- J. A. Jance, "Payment in Kind"

Monday, September 18, 2017

What Me Worry?

     As I mentioned in my last post, I've taken several road trips lately, spending a lot of time behind the wheel of my car, which has given me plenty of time to reflect on what's going on in the world. Instead of focusing on the latest silliness in the news -- whatever Trump tweeted, whoever just got hired or fired, how the political parties are posturing -- I've been trying to focus on what's important in our lives.

     And if we step back -- well, I'm in my car, so I'm only stepping back figuratively speaking -- I think that what should most concern us is what is most likely to kill us, or hurt or maim us.

     With the recent hurricanes, it's hard not to think about global warming and the destruction it will eventually cause. With North Korea in the news, it's hard not to worry about a nuclear holocaust.

A scary sight
     But with that ten-ton semi bearing down on me, hurtling along at 70-some mph, and the aggressive driver weaving in and out of traffic, I realize that the most immediate and deadly danger is something I face every day, right here in front of me on the American roads.

     When you're on the highway, with speeding cars, tailgating trucks, and motorcycles weaving in and out between cars, you realize that the biggest danger we face today -- all of us -- is the high degree of lawlessness on American roads. People routinely drive 10, 15, even 20 mph over the speed limit. A significant portion of drivers tailgate, pass on the right, weave in and out of traffic, fail to use their turn signals. And god only knows how many are doing all this while they're talking on the phone or fiddling with their iPod.

     Haven't you seen the line of six or eight cars in the left-hand lane of the highway, all going 75 mph, and all about 10 feet behind one another? If the slightest thing goes wrong, the result is . . .  well, according to the New York Times there were 40,200 traffic deaths in 2016. After going down for years, due largely to seat belts, airbags and other safety features, traffic deaths are now on the rise again.

     The latest reports say Hurricane Harvey killed 82 people in four days. What we totally ignore is that some 440 people lost their lives on American roads during that same time period. Hurricane Irma killed 26 Americans in three days, while those same three days claimed 325 lives on our highways.

Remember these old signs?
     So what is President Trump doing about this increasing threat to Americans? The same as Obama, Bush, Clinton . . . nothing. What are governors and mayors doing about it? I know in my old hometown there's a project to widen an old parkway and straighten out some of the curves. But still, nobody wants to enforce the speed limit. Traveling 70 mph on a narrow curvy road, where the official speed limit is 55 mph, seems to be within the bounds of acceptable behavior. Nevermind the 40,000 dead, and countless more injured.

     And so the postscript? Actually, drug addiction now takes more American lives than traffic accidents. But I don't worry about drug addiction for myself, because I don't take drugs . . . while I do drive, which is why driving is my number one issue. My kids don't take drugs either (although my niece does and I do worry for her). But my kids also drive. And so whenever I know they're on the road -- my son drove from New York to Baltimore last weekend; my daughter is driving from North Carolina to Brooklyn in a couple of weeks -- there's always that little bit of anxiety lurking in the back of my mind. Are they going to be okay?

     Don't you have that same anxiety? Aren't you just a bit unsettled when you know your kids are on the road?

     Regardless, the message of this post is: please, slow down and obey the traffic laws, for your own safety as well as the safety of those around you. And let's be more careful of the drugs we use, prescription or otherwise, lest we or our loved ones become victims ourselves.

     And by the way, why can't the researchers at our top universities, big hospitals or major drug companies discover an effective nonaddictive painkiller?

     Anyway, sometimes we forget . . . we live in a dangerous world. So let's not worry about the small stuff, let's try to keep safe.


Gertrude said...

My sweetie and I live several miles apart. Before leaving home to visit, we call to see if something should be picked up along the way. The final words are always: "Watch out for the crazies... they're out there". They are. They are scary. We know... watching out only goes so far.

Anonymous said...

The worst drivers around here are the ones driving to and from the military bases daily for work. The name of the road we all have to drive on is called "Bloody 98" for a good reason.

Rian said...

I do worry when my kids are on the road... whether they're traveling back and forth to work or on an actual road trip. Mainly I worry because of cell phones. They all use them... everyone uses them (look around while you're driving) Don't get me wrong, I love my iPhone, but people using it while driving scares the hell out of me. It only takes a minute of distraction to change a life forever.

Mac n' Janet said...

It's people with their cell phones while driving that scare the B'Jesus out of me.

Janette said...

I drive from Dover to Baltimore weekly. Monthly I drive from Dover to West Point- through NYC area. Speed is crazy! I got caught in a block of people moving 80 mph the other day---no way out.... There is NO enforcement. In fact I am often passed by state police going over 70mph. I hate that Police use their computers while they drive....that is REALLY scary. Cell phones are a major issue. Blue tooth people!
I avoid all major traffic times- the 90 mph weavers, make up appliers and bumper rubbing is all the rage these days. I have been a witness to some pretty terrible accidents. I always leave a car length of room at stop lights and live in the slow lane.
Tomorrow I leave for Phoenix. Hoping to be on my A game of speeding and dodging. I feel it is crazy that they actually go to court and deny that the person running the red light was not them in their car.
If I worry, my driving gets worse. I just have to get in the groove and move like the rest of them!
Wish me luck.

stephen Hayes said...

Excellent advice. Thanks for sharing.

Jeanette Lewis said...

Bad driving is also a huge problem in Canada. Our family has agreements to send a text upon leaving home and again after safe arrival at the destination. I sometimes stay up 'way too late waiting for that final text to arrive when our kids take the 5 hour trip to visit in-laws. Your post is timely.

Red said...

We know the things you bring up but we go blindly on. Hurricane deaths are more "newsworthy" so common car accidents don't rate.

DJan said...

I too worry about traffic accidents with my loved ones and even myself, though I don't drive nearly as much as when I was working, and I take the bus whenever I can. Yes, it's a scary world but we must focus on what we can do each day to make our own lives safer. Thanks for sharing.

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hi Tom! You are right about one thing...so many people worry about terrorists and or kidnappers or whatever, and yet never give a thought about getting behind the wheel and driving where it is far more dangerous and life-threatening to the vast majority of people. That's why I am a big supporter of public transportation because that would get so many people off the road and me as well. Plus, I am also adapting to the idea of driverless cars for the same reason. If they can perfect them, it will be a huge benefit for people who really want to stare at their smartphones anyway AND will help mobilize so many other people who shouldn't (or can't) be driving. I don't personally believe I live in a scary world, but I do believe it is SMART to be careful and do what we can to be safe. ~Kathy

Tom said...

Kathy I agree, public transportation is much more relaxing and probably safer too. I don't know if they'll ever get to the point of safe, convenient, driverless cars. But maybe one day I'll have the opportunity to take the Hyperloop!

Tabor said...

Our police here are on our case for speeding all the time. Tickets are freely delivered. That is only this part of the state, though. I am sure other areas are more dangerous.

Anonymous said...

I just returned from a 9 hour drive to Hickory, NC. Drove through Irma rain going and coming with some fog and truck drivers going so fast it was like my little car was driving through a car wash. It was worth it to see my brand new first grandson, but it took it's toll on me. It is exhausting to drive that long and not get sleepy. I listened to several books on CD's and that helped pass the time. I found myself also in packs of people going way over the speed limit. - plynjyn

Anonymous said...

My husband wanted to take me to the coast, we started out early and was hit in back by a fellow who was 2 cars behind us, we think our paid for car is toatled, it has been a nightmare for my hubs, me I just got all deep into being calm for him..We have excellent insurance rates but the yahoo who owns the vehicle is acting like a big baby indeed..Our insurance company wants us to get a new car, we are not rich and retired we just don't know about that we might get a break as we have purchased many Hyundais from one company here and they have many cars new to choose from and this is the time to buy for 2018 but we just don't know..Everyone is kind and loving to us, but I prefer walking and riding the bus to get anything done and the exercise is great for my body, rain is here in this part of Washington state and it gets wet but at least I don't get rear-ended walking and I found some money to boot this morning and also a wallet which I returned to its owner happily..It is just a car..after all a person's life is worth more than a dadblasted car..ciao!

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