Have you ever driven from one location to the next and realized once you reached your destination that you didn’t remember getting there? I have. And when I do, it freaks me out.
How is it possible that I could get behind the wheel of a vehicle made up of thousands of pounds of steel and operate it without being completely attentive in every sense of the word? It’s not like I haven’t witnessed the horrific destruction of a car crash and its everlasting aftermath. You’d think the first tragic one I knew the victims of would have whipped me into shape.
I was 23 years old at the time and had just started a job at a grocery store, where I worked with a beautiful young woman named Lisa Maier, a sweet and helpful cashier. We had attended the same high school—she was a grade older and I looked up to her.
Lisa welcomed me with open arms and told me to ask her anything anytime. “Don’t worry about a thing,” she said, when I told her how nervous I was. “We’re going to have tons of fun. You’ll see.”
Buoyed by her friendly confidence, I looked forward to working there and getting to know her better, but that never happened because she and her sister Linda, a gorgeous girl one grade younger than me, perished in a head on collision days later.
The horrific car crash rocked the community of Deep Cove in North Vancouver where we grew up, and I was deeply affected by their deaths even though I didn’t know them well.
Just knowing them at all, and being witness to the devastation their younger sister Lori and their heartbroken family and friends endured made their story in the news so much more intense. It also made me realize that as young and immortal as we often felt, any of us could die in the blink of an eye.
I drove more attentively after that. I’m not sure how long that lasted, but it definitely wasn’t long enough. There have been so many car accidents since then that have reminded me that our vehicles are potential killing machines and should be thought of in that way every time they’re in operation.
So what can I do personally to stay focused, alert and defensive while driving? For years my friend Paul Hergott’s been recommending putting our hands at the ten and two position on the steering wheel.
“Some argue that the nine and three, or the eight and four makes for better positioning,” says the personal injuries lawyer located in West Kelowna. “What’s optimum for driving is debatable, but what matters to me is that the ten and two position is the least comfortable, requiring conscious attention to keep them there. When my mind wanders, so do my hands, and that movement to a more comfortable position alerts me to refocus my attention on the important task at hand.”
According to Transport Canada more than 165,000 people were injured in car crashes in 2013 —that’s 452 per day. These numbers seem to drop every year with safer vehicles and mandatory safety laws being implemented, but the numbers are still staggering and unacceptable. Those injured and the families of the 1,923 people who lost their precious lives in just one year would agree.
“Even one crash is too many,” Paul says. “If we could just open our eyes to the immense personal losses in injuries and deaths, those crash statistics would be slashed significantly.”
The RCMP doesn’t refer to them as car accidents anymore.
“The word accident suggests something couldn’t be helped,” Paul continues. “Virtually all crashes are preventable and are usually caused from someone driving inattentively, recklessly, impaired or falling asleep at the wheel.”
Staying awake has always been a challenge for me when overtired or driving too long, so I’ve learned to pull over and take a nap if tricks like opening the window, playing music or eating sunflower seeds doesn’t keep me alert.
We all know our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to driving. The key to preventing car crashes, though, seems simply to be paying continuous attention to the road ahead of us. By doing so, we can help keep everyone safe, including ourselves.
For more tips and information on preventing injuries and deaths due to car crashes, please visit OneCrashIsTooMany.com.
Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at LoriWelbourne.com.