Driving things has been a part of my life for over 60 years. Growing up on a farm in the Central Valley allowed me to drive a car starting when I was 12. Driving a tractor was also part of the package. The car was great for speed because, as a preteen, 40 miles per hour was pretty fast. The tractor was great for pulling stuff, but not much for doing it fast.
In all those years of driving, I never had an accident, save for the time when my car and another car were both getting onto a two-lane road at the same time. It didn’t work out too well because neither of us saw the other, so we met, ever so briefly, and at very slow speed, in the middle. No police came and no insurance claims were filed, so it was not much of an accident.
All the other accidents that involved me were other people running into the back of whatever vehicle I was driving. When people hit you in the rear, unless you have driven in front of them in a careless manner, they are always at fault.
Speeding tickets have also paid me a visit perhaps once every 10 years or so. It doesn’t matter if you are going over the speed limit in the middle of nowhere with no traffic on the road (except the highway patrol car heading towards you) you can get a ticket. It also doesn’t matter if you are caught in a speed trap at the bottom of a long and steep hill going into a small town and the owners of the trap can and do give you a ticket. Too bad the internet didn’t exist when I was driving through Colorado or I might have found out that it ranks 10th of all states for having speed traps.
Now to answer the statement that crashes have made me a better driver.
Having a certain amount of excess free time has allowed me to peruse the millions of videos provided for my entertainment on YouTube. When I need a laugh, I explore the various “fails” sites with such catchy titles as “Fails of the month,” “Best fails of 2014,” and “The Best Fails of All Time.”
What all these sites have in common is the demonstration of just how careless, thoughtless or dumb that we humans can be. The number of people who think pool diving boards are unbreakable, that wet surfaces near bodies of water are not slippery, and that the distance from the roof to some enticing object on the ground is quite doable, is nothing short of amazing as well as often funny.
There is another set of sites that I don’t necessarily recommend if you are too easily traumatized. These videos have names such as “Crashes caught on dashcams,” “Car crash compilation,” “Russian car crash compilation,” “Top 100 Best Car Crashes of 2019,” and – you get the idea. These videos, many of which I have watched, have shown me hundreds of car and truck and train accidents.
What has become apparent during this close examination of these incidents, is that some people are really bad at driving. There seem to be commonalities about many of these accidents. One, people drive too fast. Two, there are a lot of drivers who do not believe that stop signs or red lights apply to them. Three, people routinely follow much too close. Four, bad weather can really ruin your day. Five, semi-trucks tip over more easily than I would have imagined. Finally, lots of drivers must be lost in a drug-induced haze or answering their cell phones or tuning their music or trying to improve their looks while traveling at 70 miles per hour.
After watching the incredibly stupid driving of so many drivers, I now look multiple times both ways before believing a stop sign or green light really means I can go. I have increased the distance between the front of my car and the rear of anything I am following. Changing lanes, making turns from busy streets are all approached with more care than in the past.
Crossing train tracks now requires even more vigilance. If you don’t think such effort is warranted, watch a few of the train crash videos and you will quickly lose the idea that trains can stop anytime soon. They slice right through cement trucks, cars, buses, logging trucks, any kind of truck you can think of, and they generally don’t stop in less than a mile.
Coming across these videos has made me realize that I need to be an even better driver than I am. It is my hope that these same videos might help you be a better driver as well, because if one life is saved, it’s worth the effort.
Kevin Wychopen is a semi-retired school counselor. Contact him at email@example.com.