Thursday, December 18, 2008

Killing Each Other at 100 Feet Per Second

This holiday season, thousands of us will be taking to the highways, possibly in unpleasant, challenging weather, and driving miles on interstates at 70+ miles per hour. And, even though we all think of ourselves as "safe" drivers with decent skills and adequate reaction speeds, somebody is going to die out there. Some family is going to be waiting for their son and his wife and their children to arrive, only to have their annoyance at his tardiness morph into something awful. They will "bleed out" in some ditch along I-70, with stunned spectators followed by travelers annoyed by the delay.

Whether you are among the annoyed or in the ditch is mostly luck. Even if you manage to keep yourself alert at all times, even if you have checked your tires to prevent blowouts and even if you allow someone else to control the radio - someone else less responsible can make a 70 mile per hour (102 feet per second) mistake with a ton and a half of metal.

A while ago, something like that happened to the brother of a friend of mine. While her my friend's brother died and her sister-in-law and niece bled in a ditch, the niece heard the driver of the other car explain that she was looking for something in her purse. How criminally stupid, right? But who among us hasn't looked down to adjust the radio, or to find a dropped piece of gum? I once worked on a wrongful death case where the driver's last act was to try to fast forward a cassette tape to "Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls". At around a hundred feet per second.

Driving is always dangerous - holiday driving is even more dangerous. Many of us don't often drive the interstates, but we'll be out there changing lanes without checking and failing to accurately judge the time it will take to stop. Even if you're perfect, I'm not, and it only takes one to make an accident. When you mix in the fact that people will be traveling on unfamiliar roads, and locals will be driving to and from parties, maybe in a little rain or snow, somebody is going to die.

Think about 100 feet per second, and think about how much damage that could imply. And please be careful - please use good judgment, and be a little frightened. Fellow drivers are counting on you, and so are the people at the other end of your journey.

5 Comments:

Blogger Melinda said...

Yet another reason I'm not driving to Iowa over the holidays. Iowa's going to become a summer state to visit. Mosquitoes be damned.

Have a safe and happy holiday, Dan!

12/18/2008 8:30 AM  
Blogger I Travel for JOOLS said...

I'm taking Amtrak to Chicago over New Years. Our local Russian blogger took the trip this summer and loved it so I decided to give it a try myself, especially when there are continuous delays at O'Hare. Last two times I traveled out of O'Hare it was a nightmare. Now I only have to dread getting to Union Station during rush hour traffic.

Stay safe everyone.

12/18/2008 9:18 AM  
Blogger les said...

Good job. And even if you're from Johnson County, use your f'n turn signals!

12/18/2008 9:59 AM  
Blogger m.v. said...

Dan, it's not that people don't know the facts, no one thinks something can happend to them. In St.Louis Science City there is an overpass above the highway where you actually realize how fast the traffic is moving.

12/18/2008 3:48 PM  
Anonymous Lance said...

Good post. Crashes can literally come "from out of nowhere" so I always assume that I will be hit by other cars around me.

12/19/2008 1:31 AM  

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