Drive Safely

I saw a video recently that really bothered me. To be honest, it upset me. It was a brief video. It lasted only one minute. But it was a very powerful minute. I guess it was more of a public service announcement and it was from New Zealand. I had heard it was a video that was focused on driving, decisions, and speeding.  My first thought before I saw it, was it may be something I could share with folks that would help us get our children ready when they start to drive.  I worried it may limit the focus to Upper School families, but I have always thought that learning to drive is such a major step in life that it would be worth our collective attention.

Then, I saw the video. And realized it was about us, not our young drivers, but US!  Maybe you have already heard about it or seen it and I will share it with you in a moment.  But before you see it, let me set the stage for you. It has to do with two cars. One car is pulling out onto a road from a side street, and the other car is coming down the road.  As the cars suddenly look like they are going to collide, time freezes.  The cars stop. The drivers get out and talk to each other. Questions seem to come out:  Why did I pull out? Why was I going so fast? “We can’t let this happen…my son is in the back seat!” And there he was… a young boy sitting in his car seat in the back seat. That’s when I got upset. I could see that youngster as one of “our” children here at school.  I saw my grandchildren sitting there in all their innocence. I saw us, you and me, having that conversation with the other driver and I would imagine what was going to happen.

Think about our driving habits.  How often are we in a hurry? Don’t we take risks sometimes? Don’t we “estimate” the speed of traffic coming down the road, down a hill, or around a bend and pull out because we are tired of waiting for all this traffic to pass and we think we can make it? We get frustrated and just want to squeeze in the flow of traffic. I experience it almost every day, when I leave the West Campus and wait to turn in the first entrance to Elmendorf. It amazes me at how fast some cars come down that hill on Jermantown.  And every day, I think about when to make “my move.”  Think of all the times we pull out of the two campuses onto Jermantown Road.  And then think about all the traffic we face here in the Washington DC Metro Area…millions of cars…millions of “decisions” to be made.

And then, there is the speed question.  Some you may be like me! I have been told all my life that I have a “heavy foot” when I drive. I guess I am always in a hurry. I love to drive, but I also love to get to my destination as quickly as possible. Do you ever wonder if those speed signs are more “suggestions” rather than speed limits?  How often don’t we all drive at the posted speed and watch cars zip by us…on both sides?  Maybe it is true when some people say that 5 or 10 miles above the speed limit is okay.  Don’t many of us have moments when we should go slower?

Here is the video, so you will know what I’m talking about. And remember, it is about us and how our decisions can affect each other…our children…other children…and the lives of all of us…in an instant. If you have children who drive or are getting ready to drive, let them see it too.  But after you see it, I have two key promises I would like for all of us to commit to. Here’s the video.

Did it bother you?  Personally, I still can’t get it out of my head.  When I first saw it, I felt a chill run down my spine at the end.  The same chill just hit me as I wrote this note.  How often have we not just missed “starring” in that video?  Rushing to get somewhere, driving too fast, pulling out into traffic “assuming” it will work, not fully comprehending how that child in our back seat is relaying on us to keep them safe and secure.  So let’s commit to two very simple things:

  1. Let’s slow down when we drive. Plain and simple, we all probably could and should do that.  Let’s keep everyone safe.  Maybe our example will help others keep at safe speeds. The adage about “Defensive Driving” is real and worth working on every time we get behind the wheel.

  1. Let’s slow down our lives.  All of us really do feel too rushed. We are always in a hurry. We race to wherever we are going in our cars – often eating a quick meal or snack, talking on phones, etc. Let’s commit to enjoy the journey as much as reaching the ultimate destination. Let’s give ourselves more time to travel and just take a deep breath and realize that our new more sane approach to life just may help everyone be more safe and secure.

I hope this has all made sense.  I feel better just writing about it because the thought of losing anyone – a child or an adult in such an accident…a senseless accident, is beyond me. The ad from New Zealand makes a powerful point and one, I hope, we all reflect on wherever we drive.  Together we can and must do all we can to protect our children, each other’s children, grandchildren, and each other.

Have a great weekend and drive safely!