After a few near-miss traffic accidents this week, I am left with just one phrase and assertion: drive like someone loves you, because they do.
This may sound harsh, but I think somewhere in our daily routines we have lost some of our driver’s education knowledge. I am by no means the greatest driver, but I try, and that is all I am asking of others.
Without including any identifying details, I’ll share some of the near-misses I have witnessed in the past week alone.
Tailgating, as defined by the dictionary is “when a driver drives behind another vehicle while not leaving sufficient distance to stop without causing a collision if the vehicle in front stops suddenly.”
From what I remember when studying for my driver’s test is the “two second rule,” and I still practice it when I am driving, out of habit. Essentially, if you want to know if you are driving too close to the vehicle in front of you, count “one Mississippi, two Mississippi,” starting when they pass a landmark, like a traffic sign. If your vehicle passes the same sign before you can count to two, you are tailgating, and that is dangerous.
Just this morning on my drive to work, a truck in front of me was going far below the speed limit and the cars behind us were antsy. I slowed down to the truck’s pace, waiting for an opportunity to pass the vehicle and that prompted the car behind me to ride my bumper so close that I could not see their headlights in my rearview mirror. Keep in mind, it was not my fault we were all going so slow, and at the end of the day, that five minutes you make up by driving like an impatient toddler is not going to matter if you end up causing harm to yourself or others in an accident.
In fact, on another drive this week, someone was tailgating me so aggressively that I pulled off to the side of the road to let them pass. I do not drive over the speed limit, I drive at the speed limit, as intended. I cannot count the times someone has risked my safety, their own safety and the safety of others to pass me, only to meet at the same stoplight right down the road. It is not worth it.
Another instance that shocked me to my core recently was once again, on my commute. I was on my way home when I noticed the car behind me swerving, a lot. My immediate thought was that it was an intoxicated driver. The speed of the vehicle fluctuated constantly, like the driver was just stomping on the gas every now and then and not steering the wheel. They got close enough to me that I could see what was happening...the driver was on their phone. In my constant vigilance while driving, I notice people’s eyes toward their laps constantly while driving instead of on the road. I know, as a person of my age, I sound rather old fashioned in this assertion, but it is dangerous to use your phone while driving. Our cars are outfitted with Bluetooth technology for a reason and that selfie post can wait until you are not operating a motor vehicle.
Anyway, back to the story. Once I saw what was going on behind me, I kept my eye on the car behind me. I don’t know if the driver had never driven this particular road, or just was not paying attention at all, but at a certain point, the road goes from two lanes in the same direction, to one. We were approaching that lane change and I knew they had no idea. As the car drifted into the opposite lane, without the driver noticing I tapped on my horn just to try to get their attention and avoid witnessing a head-on collision. I suppose the driver took that as a challenge as they passed me on a double yellow line and sped off. I was in shock...I’d even tried to wave in a friendly way out the window so the driver knew I was just trying to get their attention. I am still speechless when it comes to that incident.
My parents always taught me that defensive driving was the most important part of staying safe on the road. One of their main lessons was to watch what other people are doing on the road. The problem of distracted driving has only gotten worse since I got my driver’s license over a decade ago. According to the the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2018 alone, 2,841 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
Anyone who has ever ridden in the car with me will tell you that I drive almost too carefully. The cold hard truth behind my adherence to speed limits and yellow lights is that I have seen far too many gruesome accidents in my time as a journalist. I have witnessed head-on collisions on highways, leaving cars completely unrecognizable. I know it is gruesome, but I want you to know why I am so passionate about driving carefully and why I felt the need to write an entire column begging my community to drive safely.
So please, drive like someone loves you, because they do. Drive safely not only for your safety but for the safety of others. That is the least we can do for one another on the road.
— Contact Emily Rice at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @BDTrice