First, Do No Harm: Driving

My wrecked PT Cruiser after I hydroplaned and was hit by an 18-wheeler who couldn’t avoid me.

For just a few months, I had almost forgotten one of the reasons I quit my old job: the daily commute. Then I decided to take a drive back to my old stomping grounds to see friends, and everything came back to me halfway there. I was passing an 18-wheeler when a brand new pickup truck came roaring up behind me, and suddenly I realized that I hadn’t forgotten anything. I had chosen to block it out of my mind entirely for the preservation of my sanity.

Now some of you are probably wondering a few things. How fast was the 18-wheeler going? Slower than the speed limit. How fast was I driving? The speed limit. How fast was the pickup going? Faster than the speed limit.

I understand that many people would have an issue with me ONLY driving the speed limit of 70 mph, but I don’t drive to suit other people. Seventeen years of commuting, a family of truck drivers, and one hydroplaning accident on the interstate that totaled my PT cruiser (see photo above) without killing or severely injuring myself or anyone else have all taught me a few things.

1)      Speed is no small matter.

2)      Dangerous speed kills – and sometimes not just the person speeding.

3)      Rain and speed…well, see #2.

4)      Ice and speed…also see #2.

5)      In my interstate driving experience, drivers of regular vehicles are far more dangerous and unpredictable than truck drivers. Just sayin’.

6)      Motorcycles are very, very, very easy to lose in your blind spot. Consequently, motorcycles are very, very, very hard to see.

7)      Road rage is real. For some drivers, everything is war.

8)      Construction zones are serious matters. Even the guys just seemingly standing around don’t want to go home in a body bag thanks to me.

9)      Deer (and other animals, such as birds, squirrels, snakes, raccoons, groundhogs, etc.) do not observe human laws of the road. Therefore, they don’t care how my car looks after I tangle with them, and they don’t care if I run into a tree trying not to hit them.

All of that being said, I have learned to abide by one rule: First, do no harm. In other words, I try to go out of my way to be an unselfish driver. Am I always successful? No, I am not, but I’m successful more often than not. I get tired of seeing other people be selfish drivers. More importantly, I try to remember one thing: I don’t want to be the reason that someone else’s family member never comes home.

So here are some tips (with a little sarcasm thrown in for good measure) gleaned from my experiences to ensure that we all get home alive every day (and without committing murder on the way there):

  • If you need to slow down, slow down. Let that person in the passing lane in front of you finish passing someone by applying a little bit of your own brake. There is no reason to terrify another driver by running up on them like a maniac. If you are too distracted to realize this is happening, you probably shouldn’t be driving. Pull over and let someone else drive you to your destination.
  • If you can get over to make it easier on someone else, do it. Let that person onto the interstate. No one “owns” the road, and there is no excuse for being so selfish that you can’t get over if your path is clear. If you are too distracted, well…refer to my instructions above.
  • Put down the #%*&$ phone…paper…burger…whatever. I know how difficult it can be to let things go, but do it so you don’t have to explain how you killed somebody because of a text message or dripping cheeseburger. (Or do it so God doesn’t have to shake his head at the stupidity of the way in which you got yourself killed or, worse, killed someone else).
  • Pick your battles. Remember when I said that road rage was real? I have seen it in action, and it is terrifying because it is completely out of your control (and obviously in the hands of someone with a screw loose). Just let the idiot go. DON’T challenge him or her.

I know how exhausting it can be to deal with people on the road. Everyone has his or her own method of driving, and some of them clearly make up their own laws as they go. I can’t fix those people, but I can abide by the rule: First, do no harm. Because I want every person who comes near me on the road to get home safely and because to paraphrase Louella in the Mitford* books, “I’d rather not meet Jesus going head on with a Mack truck.”


*Mitford series by Jan Karon – Positively delightful series!!!