By DR. CHRIS RAINWATER
Director, Garrison Safety
I want you to picture something for me. I want you to imagine that you’re at a large stadium… maybe at a football game or concert. There are 35,000 screaming fans filling the stadium. As you look around the stadium, I want you to focus on the separate faces. I want you to scan around the stadium starting with the person sitting next to you on your left until you’ve looked at everyone ending with the person sitting to your right. Look at them…men, women, children, all races, backgrounds, you name it. A sea of humanity. I want you to close your eyes in a minute and imagine the sounds of 35,000 people; sense the excitement in the air.
Now imagine that you close your eyes for a moment and when you open them…nothing. Silence. No people. Trash blowing across the field. Wind sweeping through the now empty stadium.
And now I want you to consider just what it means…all of them are dead. All of them were killed in car wrecks. All of those lives and all of that excitement from a minute ago are wiped out and gone forever.
Now, I want you to consider this—it’s the reality in the U.S. In 2013, more people lost their lives on our roads in any year since 2008; 35,000 lives snuffed out each year. So, when in January the stadium once again fills with 35,000 people, guess how many will still be there by the end of the year?
Those 35,000 people got up one morning not realizing that they were beginning their last day of life. They are no different than you and me. They weren’t special in any way—just normal folks who had jobs, plans, dreams, and somewhere to go. Their families and friends never got to say goodbye. But somehow…some way…we think of those 35,000 lives as “them.” Those 35,000 could never include us, right? You and I have a job to get to. We have family counting on us. We’re going on vacation next month and we’re looking forward to the holidays, right? So, we don’t need to worry about anything happening to us. Being killed in a car accident? Whatever. No way.
Of course, the hard truth is very simple—you are no different than any of the 35,000 people who will die this year on our roadways. And while you’re not guaranteed another second on this earth, there are certainly things you can do to keep yourself and others safe when in a vehicle.
First, NEVER drive distracted. April is National Distracted Driving Month—a great time to emphasize the incredible hazards associated with hurling a 3,500 pound piece of steel down the road while reading emails on your phone. A study by the National Highway Safety Council last year indicates that there are 660,000 drivers who are driving while simultaneously distracted on American roadways at any given moment. Think about what this means for a moment. What if every car you passed…every truck, every 18-wheeler…had the driver looking down while driving? What if every head in every car you pass on Hwy. 31 was looking at something other than you and the road? As crazy as that sounds, more than 387,000 people were seriously injured last year as a result of accidents which happened as a direct result of cell phone usage while driving. These aren’t scrapes and scratches—they are broken bones, severed limbs, paralysis, brain injuries. Your decision to take a quick glance down, over, up at your cell phone just to check that last text message or see who just called can—and eventually will—injure or kill someone. It’s just that simple. If you drive while trying to operate a cell phone to any degree you are setting yourself up for disaster.
Second, obey the speed limits and traffic control devices. There are so many of us on the road; all of these different vehicles going every direction with drivers who have almost no experience or who have been driving forever and become complacent. So, it is especially critical that we help traffic flow smoothly and safely by slowing on yellow and stopping on red. Hitting the gas at the last moment to get through the intersection will save you a couple of seconds, but it may result in someone’s death. Use your turn signals before you decide to maneuver your 2,000 lb. steel machine into the path of another machine. Slow down. You may arrive 60 seconds later, but you’ll arrive.
Finally, and you already know this—wear your seat belt every time. Your vehicle should never move unless your seat belt and the seat belts of all your occupants are fastened. Your chances of becoming one of the 35,000 are reduced by 60 percent.
There’s No Excuse Not To Buckle Up!
* I´m not driving very far.
FACT: Three out of four crashes occur within 25 miles of home.
* I’m riding in the back seat.
FACT: You can still be thrown from a vehicle even if you are riding in the back seat. If you are unrestrained, you also pose a risk to others in the vehicle with you.
* I’m driving at night and the police won´t see me.
FACT: Police departments are increasing nighttime enforcement. In addition, there are more high-risk drivers on the roads at night such as impaired drivers and drowsy drivers, which may present increased risk for a crash.
* I’m pregnant and the seat belt is too tight.
FACT: Wearing your seat belt is the best defense for you and your baby in the event of a crash. Adjust the lap belt so that it fits snugly over the hips and pelvis, below your belly.
* I don´t want to be trapped by a seat belt in case my vehicle catches fire or is submerged in water.
FACT: Less than one-half of one percent of all injury crashes involves fire or submersion. Also, national research has shown you are 25 times more likely to be killed if you are ejected from the vehicle.