Friday, December 12, 2008

Driver Safety Lesson

As a former instructor and trainer of the AARP Driver Safety Program and a former deputy sheriff, I was saddened to read this morning of yesterday's fatal accident involving two high school students en route to a Kane County high school.

From the article in the Chicago Tribune, it is logical to assume that they were running late. If they were five miles from the school and nine minutes from the class start time, they weren't going to make it on time - even on dry roads, no ice, no wind, no traffic, no red lights. By the time they parked and hoofed it to class, they were going to be late.

Being late to school, work, a date, or home after a date is not the end of the world. Most of us have cell phones. Just call and notify the person expecting you that you'll be a little late. If you get chewed out or are tardy, so what? Needless to say, don't let the use of your cell phone endanger you. If you need to pull over to call , do it.

As a pilot, I learned to multi-task and keep the plane flying straight and level. My instructor (a retired USAF pilot) barked at me often not to get so engrossed in reading a chart or using the radio that I let the plane wander away from the heading, altitude or speed he had ordered. I learned that course could change if I just turned my head to look out the window! Those reminders (and skills) have stayed with me. While I might think that I can use my phone or glance at a map while I am driving, I am, first and foremost, aware that, when I distract myself from the primary obligation to operate my vehicle safely, I increase the risk of driving less than safely. And so my awareness and attention go up, if I am doing anything except driving the car.

The lesson in this accident? When you are running late, be late.

Parents - discuss fatal accidents with your young drivers. It's not to "scare" them. Help them learn what they will need to know for years of safe driving. They will not learn it all in Drivers Education.

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