Life is full of distractions, challenges and risks. We can become enlightened or distracted 24/7 from a multitude of sources that bombard us via newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, books, the internet or you name it. In today's complicated world, we face challenges that can originate in our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, businesses, governments or by individuals in hundreds of different countries around the world. To survive in this complicated world, I believe it's necessary to practice some sound disciplines to reduce the number of stupid mistakes we make. Even for those whose lives seem to be flying high with success can have their life turned upside-down and even ended, by one stupid mistake. In this week's lesson, we will discuss one of the most overlooked dangers in our society. That being our current mindset and habits when we drive our vehicles on the crowded roads and highways.
According to the NHTSA, total U.S. traffic deaths reached 43,200 in 2005. That total represents 14.4 times the number of military deaths suffered in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars combined. Also in 2005, 2.7 million people were injured in crashes on our highways. These numbers are staggering, yet the general public barely yawns. If you happen to travel on our wonderful interstate highways, you will witness so much speeding and reckless driving habits that you have to wonder what's going on inside the heads of those careless drivers who put all of us at high risk on the highways.
Just today, I was driving on an interstate highway with a speed limit of 70 MPH. A young driver on a motorcycle without a helmet on passed me at speed of at least 105 MPH. This motorcyclist was weaving in and out of lanes as if he were playing a video game. That incident prompted me to write this lesson today. I just could not believe the negligence of this driver and how he put so many people at risk. After doing some research, I learned that motorcycle fatalities were up 13% in 2005 and represented 4553 deaths in 2005. That's 10.5% of the total fatalities on our highways with a relatively few number of motorcycles on the roads.
A few years ago I watched a video about how speed kills on the highway and had a rude awakening about the risks of driving too fast. I also did some calculations on my own, to prove how ridiculous it is to drive 10 miles over the speed limit on highways (what many believe they can get away with but are wrong). I would like to share these calculations in an effort to convert you to drive slower.
On a 100 mile trip, if you are driving on a highway with a 70 MPH posted speed limit; and set your cruise control at 73 MPH (just to make you feel good, plus you probably won't be stopped for speeding and you will arrive at your destination in 82 minutes). If you travel at 80 MPH you will arrive in 75 minutes. Over that one hundred mile stretch, you invested an extra 7 minutes of your time. The benefits of this 7 minute investment are just incredible. You reduced the risk of a costly speeding ticket. You reduced the risk of annual surcharges. You reduced the risk of higher insurance premiums; and you drove more comfortably and carefully as you concentrated on the road ahead instead of looking for state troopers hiding in the bushes. As a bonus you will feel good to practice the common sense that's necessary to stay alive. Likewise for a 50 mile trip which is more common, you would invest a mere 4 minutes of your time for the same benefits.
The second driving habit that is IMPERATIVE to follow is to never drink and drive. Alcohol related motor vehicle crashes kill someone every 31 minutes and non-fatally injure someone every two minutes (NHTSA 2005). There isn't enough that I can say about how stupid it is to drink and drive. Life is too valuable to play a game of Russian roulette, as you put your life on the line, as well as those of other innocent people just to have an extra drink. If you don't have a totally sober designated driver........DON'T DRINK PERIOD!
The last very obvious yet still overlooked safety tip is to always wear a seat belt. Seat belts save lives. And if you are a driver you should insist that your passengers wear seat belts too. Fifty five percent of passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes were not wearing a seat belt. It's the law in most states to wear seat belts. This is a good law and should be followed.
Some things in life are so simple. Yet we somehow tend to avoid good simple advice and end up totally complicating our lives with injuries or misery from making stupid mistakes. It pays to practice good sound disciplines in every critical area of our lives. The highways are full of danger. Do your small part to avoid speeding; avoid drinking and driving; and buckle up at all times. Drive smart to stay alive!