OPINION — In May of 2013, on a warm and sunny Southern Utah morning, a motor home traveling south through St. George at highway speed suddenly left Interstate 15, plunged down an embankment and plowed through a chain link fence.
Somehow staying upright and with its momentum not yet spent, it continued across a busy street and, in a cloud of dust and debris, crashed through one duplex apartment and finally came to rest inside the other.
If there is any upside to this story, it’s that the dwellings were not occupied at the time. But that meant little to the 10 people in the motor home. Sitting in the front seats, the driver and his wife were killed. The other eight occupants, five of whom were the kids of the deceased, miraculously survived.
To my knowledge the police haven’t yet figured out why it happened. Blowout? Maybe. Distracted or drowsy driver? Could be. Some knuckle-dragger cutting in front of them? Possibly. All they knew for sure was that two people were dead and their five young kids were badly hurt and suddenly orphaned. The family was on its way to Disneyland.
You’re thinking, “What a depressing story!” Well, yes it is, and while it’s certainly not the only death that has happened on Utah roads since 2013, my purpose with this example is to get your attention, to shock you into thinking about your driving.
When you turned the key this morning, did you say to yourself, “Hey, today I could die or kill somebody in this thing”? Of course not, and neither did the people in that motor home, nor any of the nearly 40,000 others in the U.S. who die in traffic crashes each year – about 5,000 of those are teens by the way, but that’s a story for another day.
More than 4 million of us a year are seriously injured. But you say, “It will never happen to me.” Wrong. Statistically the average driver will have three crashes during his or her driving career. We can only hope that one of those won’t be the big one.
The tragedy in all this is that most of this carnage is preventable if we would only take our driving more seriously. Most of us think very little about the way we drive, if at all. Driving is a thinking task, but we stop thinking about it. Hey, it’s what we do, no big deal.
We forget that we are involved in a complex and very dangerous task which requires our undivided concentration. Pardon the mixed metaphor, but driving is no walk in the park anymore. Aggressive drivers are everywhere, and they’re after your butt. It’s a war out there, and not all of us will survive.
I want you to ask yourself, “Am I good driver? Or someone who just knows how to drive?” For most of us the physical task of driving is a no-brainer. We can teach a monkey how to drive. But what does it take to be a good driver, and do you have it? We’ll save the answer to that for another time.
I’ve been in the driver training business for more than 30 years. My schools have trained 70,000 people in multiple states and in two languages. During my 21 years in business here I’ve watched St. George driving go from comfortable and safe to destructive and deadly.
You don’t take my word for it. In November of the year that horrible motor home crash happened, local media reported that St. George was on pace for a record number of vehicle crashes, with a prediction of more than 2,000 accidents before the end of the year. And guess what? There were 2,166 crashes in St. George that year. C’mon folks, we’re better than this.
In the past, I have written other pieces nagging you at times. I’ve been in your face about the dangers of driving and told other unpleasant stories. If that’s not for you, tune me out. But remember, no matter your age or driving experience, what I have to say here could very well save your life.
This is not about how to drive. This is about staying alive! See you next time…I hope!
Submitted by ROBERT SEARS, St. George, Utah.
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