Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter
ozma914

Next Week's Column: Adventures in Driving

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK

This is something I don’t say often: I haven’t felt much like writing. Basically life has sucked lately – I’m not saying this for sympathy, but in the hopes that I can run a reprint column and my editor will still pay me.
Luckily, a friend who’s been reading my old columns commented about one from a year ago that struck me as perfect for the situation. Perfect, because every vehicle I’ve touched lately seems to have something bad happen to it, and also because winter seems to have at last caught up with us, and this was a column about both:



My contention is that four wheel drive vehicles should be illegal – especially during winter. Also, DWS (Driving While Stupid) should be a capital offense if it involves alcohol, drugs, personal injury, or four wheel drives.

DWS would have to be illegal to begin with, but we have to start somewhere.

Look, I’ve done foolish things while driving. I once backed an ambulance into a mailbox. I ran over a stop sign with a police office standing ten feet away, watching me. I took a 1976 Pontiac Ventura off-road four wheeling – and no, Ventura’s were not FWD.

The fact that I was young at the time may be a reason, but it’s not an excuse. The fact that people much older than I was do similarly stupid things takes away even the “reason” category.

My point is, we all act foolishly now and then, and hopefully learn from our mistakes. I’m talking now about the people who have made a hobby out foolishness, and learn nothing.

Every day people get killed or maimed, vehicles destroyed, traffic snarled, nerves shot. The people who cause the mayhem often walk away uninjured, whining about how traumatized they are.

“It was horrible, all the kids in the back of my pickup flying through the air, and the nun’s body knocked out my tire alignment -- *sob* -- I almost lost my grip on my beer. Luckily I had my cell phone in my other hand, so I was able to call 911.”

Generally – certainly not always – drivers of big vehicles are most reckless. Why? First of all, the drivers of small cars are scared stiff. You think I’m going to tailgate a truck that has a spring loaded bumper aimed directly at my nose, and a “Honk if You Love Guns” bumper sticker? I don’t think so.

Second, many drivers of large vehicles think they own the road, and believe ownership extends over Mother Nature. “What’s a little freezing rain? I’ve got four wheel drive!” Or, as I like to call it, four wheel ice skates.

True, it’s fun to play the game where you’re passed by an SUV, then point and laugh at him when he lands in the ditch two miles further on. But that’s when nobody gets hurt; sadly, people are getting hurt.

It’s the very definition of False Sense of Security. Yes, maybe you and your truck will get through your 65 mph trip in blinding snow without incident, it happens. Angels watch over the foolish. Or maybe the next time will be the one when you’ll end up parked in somebody’s living room, on top of a Toyota that can now qualify as a throw rug. Does getting away with something incredibly stupid make it right?

Here’s a wild idea: Slow your idiot rear end down. A five thousand pound block of metal, going at a speed that would have terrified an Indy 500 racer of 50 years ago, is not under your control, even in the best weather conditions. Add to that rain, deer and other idiot drivers, and you’ve got a recipe for bloody mayhem.

“I don’t care – that’s not going to happen to me,” you say. You’re a moron. Nobody’s last words were, “I have a feeling I’m going to get into a bad accident today.”

The speed limit is not a suggestion. There are excellent drivers capable of maintaining control while streaking along at warp 5, but they don’t live around here. If they did, they’d have died with a deer in their laps a long time ago.

There’s no shame in going under the speed limit when the weather stinks. Shocking, I know. If you’re running late during a snowstorm and get behind a silver haired lady driving 45 mph, you have nobody to blame but yourself for not leaving on time. Again – shocking.

Safety belts. Yes, they are cool, because they keep you from getting your head run over as you’re thrown out of your rolling SUV because you tried to pass that silver haired lady in a snow storm. Living is cool. Living as a brain damaged paraplegic when you could have prevented it is not.

Some people are capable of maintaining driving control while holding something in their hand, some people aren’t. There’s one very bad way to tell the difference. You don’t want that person on the other end of your cell phone call to have nightmares about your last words for the rest of their lives, especially since your last words will probably consist of a stream of curses followed by a sickening crunch.

On a related note, carry a set of scales, and weigh yourself before getting into the car. If you’re not on the edge of starvation, wait until you get home to eat.

A lot of people try to excuse their accidents by saying they were “blinded by –“ fill in the blank. The sunrise, the sunset, oncoming headlights, a brilliant idea, whatever.

You know, we don’t let blind people drive in Indiana. We’re not trying to be cruel. It’s what used to be called common sense, before trial attorneys had it banned. It’s the same reason, for instance, why someone who works in a foundry can’t safely continue the job if they go blind. No offense – it’s just too dangerous.

So here’s a wild idea: If you’re driving down the road, and something blinds you – STOP DRIVING. Call me crazy, but being temporarily blinded and being permanently blinded both involve not being able to see. Are you worried somebody behind you is going to be mad because you hit the brakes and pulled over? Fine – let them be mad at your very alive self.

They’re probably driving a four wheel drive, anyway.
Tags: new era, slightly off the mark, weekly column
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