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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Interesting article

Drive Safely - Your Responsibility Only: A philosophy as well as a practice

By way of introduction, eight people within my "sphere of influence" have been killed in vehicle accidents over the last six months. It could well be that you have also experienced similar loss and heartache. I share my sympathy and compassion with you. I feel compelled to share my thoughts with you in the hope that it may cause you to give your driving habits, attitudes and skills more thought.

You, alone, are responsible
Harsh as this may seem; you are the only person responsible for your safety on our roads. This comment stems from the fact that you have choice: as a driver and as a passenger. You are responsible for holding onto your life when it comes to being on the road. You are responsible for getting home safely to your family. There is little point in blaming others on the road for your death – you can only, if you are well behaved, do this from Heaven. Every time you get in a car remind yourself of your accountability to yourself, your family and other loved ones. Those of you inclined to prayer please do not phrase a prayer that delegates your responsibility to God - rather ask him/her to ensure you take on your responsibility.

Common Causes
I can only hypothesise but my top five causes of death-by-driving:
- Poor and inattentive driving
- Over speeding
- Following too close or allowing others to follow you too close
- Driving at night
- Driving under the influence of alcohol

The above factors are all inextricably linked. I will deal with them in turn with the knowledge that they all over lap. Note I have not put “other road users” as one of the major causes.

Key Assumptions
- No one on the road will observe the rules and etiquette of road.
- Always expect the unexpected.

As often as you can, imagine all the possible outcomes out there.  Ask yourself: "Am I driving at a speed and in a manner that if any one of the imagined outcomes came to fruition I could manage the situation?"

Let’s look at a couple of case studies:

Open Road:  Assume all this is going on at once
- Commuter has pulled off ahead. With the steep drop-off, when driver comes back on the road he will swing into the middle of the road. Even if he has seen me coming he will come back on the road regardless. 
- The passengers may walk across the road with out looking
- Two trucks coming the other way. The one behind may overtake
- As I come over the blind rise how will manage if there are two trucks abreast bearing down on me
- That car coming towards me is meandering – drunk? 
- What if that bus coming my way had a blow out, he is already doing 120km/hr
- And that dog/cow?

The antidote is to slow down and have avoidance mechanisms in your head.

In town coming up to a robot intersection on green
- You do not have right of way on a green light!  Treat this as a give way. 
- Commuter pulled off just the other side of the intersection. He will pull out when he wants to. 
- Vendor on your side making for the stationary car in the other lane. 
- “My “light may be green but the other lights might not be working. 
- Those pedestrians waiting in the middle of the road, they might walk across.
- If I brake the person behind is far too close.
- I am in the blind spot of the driver on my left; she could pull into my lane at any time. Get out of another car’s blind spot as soon as you can. 

Could you cope with anyone of these outcomes? If you have a moment of fear - you are going too fast for the possible outcomes.

Too Close
I have only driven with two people in my life who consistently hold a safe distance behind the car ahead. As we should know this varies with speed. Do a self-check. Note where the car in front of you is by fixing the point to something static on the road side. Turn your head to look away – at a person/tree - and at the same time assume the person ahead had braked sharply. Look back and see where you are compared to the fixed point you chose. One of the common answers to why you are so close is, “no worries, I will not take my eyes off him!” So now imagine that unbeknown to you, unless you are a snake lover, the Green Mamba under your seat decides to make for better sun on your dashboard.  At the same time the person in front has braked, you are doing 130km/hr. Where are you now?  Chances are the snake will have lived. You may have not been so lucky.

Following blindly
It is one thing following your boss, or someone you love, blindly. But why this bus?  Right behind it at 110km/hr just because you think you can overtake better / easier. This means you have no clue what is happening on the road ahead. You now rely on the bus driver’s powers of observation and his reaction time.  However if you hang back you will see all ahead. You can see well ahead of time when it is clear to overtake and can start building momentum. Often drivers think it is OK to travel head to butt when the speed of the traffic is slow. Try the four hours out of your life and the insurance hassles over the ensuing days because you rear-ended some important person’s wife.

Our competitive nature
Then the person whose wrinkles you can see in your review mirror. “There is no way that old fart is going to overtake this bus before me! I was here first!” You might also be dead first. Slow down, pull onto the shoulder (if there is one) and let the person go – maybe one of his wives is expecting.

I wonder if it is dark in Heaven. Well one way to find out is to drive at night.  I appreciate that it is impractical not to drive at all in the environs of our homes. But driving at night on our main, open roads is as close to suicide, without direct intention, as we can get. Your long journeys can be avoided by improved planning. 

The glass calling the whiskey drunk
Many of us have been drunk and under influence of a steering wheel.  As a driver we are in charge of a lethal weapon.  This is illegal in anybody’s book. If a rhino poacher gets 15 years and a copper wire thief (sabotage) gets over 20 years then what should a drunken driver get for causing death and destruction? Assume it’s a life sentence in that your conscience will never rest again. We have choices and drunkenness remains one of them – but make a plan to avoid being the driver. Do not be a cowered passenger all your life. Speak up or stop the bus and get off.

Seems in our country driving brings out the worst in people - when in fact it could bring out the best. As litter flies out the windows of the new Pajero - here comes the empty beer can from the driver (father), then mother with her empty plastic water bottle, closely followed by fast food containers of the two private school kids in the back. All four have their heads plugged into their respective Nano’s. Then add the speed, the weaving ahead into the traffic, and the fist shaking at a security guard making his early morning way home. So reflect on how you drive your competitive cocoon of entitlement, arrogance and danger down the road.

You, you and you
In closing. The ultimate selfish act is to get killed on the road. You are the only person who can influence this outcome. You only learn the lesson once – in your final spit second

May you come home safely, every time.

- Richard Maasdorp

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