Dangerous consequences for flaunting driving rules

As I get in my van after class, I’m not thinking about the road or about the drive home. I’m thinking about a million other things. I’m distracted. In fact, I’m so distracted that I probably shouldn’t be driving.A lot of us aren’t thinking about driving when we get in our cars. Many people ignore the rules that are in place for our safety when we’re behind the wheel.

I rarely signal when I change lanes and I usually don’t wear a seatbelt. In fact, these days, the only time I do put on a seatbelt is when I see a cop. I don’t want to get pulled over, after all. But, the rules that some drivers so blatantly ignore sometimes have devastating and fatal consequences.

Ashlee Smith was 15 years old when she got in her friend’s car to go to lunch. She was in a few of my classes in ninth grade. Ashlee was one of those people who got along with folks easily and accepted everyone.

Her friend ran a stop sign and his Camaro was struck on the driver’s side door by a truck going down the highway. It took them four hours to cut Ashlee out of the backseat, where she was trapped by a piece of metal which had wrapped itself around her stomach.

A week later her friends and family were mourning her death at her funeral.

One night, I was driving home from work. It was late and there were few cars on the road. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw headlights approaching from a side street. Luckily, I slowed down. Whoever it was didn’t bother stopping at the stop sign but careened onto the road I was traveling on in the opposite direction.

I, too, have run stop signs, and I assuage my guilt by saying that I only ignore them at four-way stops when there isn’t anyone else waiting. But, am I any better than the person who killed Ashlee by ignoring that stop sign? Am I any better than the person who nearly hit me? Not really.

But still, almost every time I get in my van, I’m thinking about my homework or the book I have to read or the paper I have to write.

I’ve had a few close calls: I’ve been so lost in my thoughts that I didn’t notice that the light was red or that the person in front of me had stopped. I’m sure that most people with driver’s licenses have had near accidents like that, too.

Even when I see bad accidents and I stop and think about the danger of driving while I’m distracted, I don’t stop doing it.

I consider myself a safe driver. I say I’m paranoid because I have two kids and I don’t want to put them in danger. I don’t take stupid risks, I’ve never driven drunk, and I try not to cut people off.

But those things don’t make me a safe driver when I’m often thinking about something else.

We all need to realize that the rules we ignore when we drive are dangerous and risky. We also need to realize that we’re not only putting our lives in danger. Perhaps if everyone would just stop and think, people like Ashlee would not be paying the price for our carelessness.