It has been a little more than a year now that my daughter got her driver’s license. When she drives and I am a passenger, we still go through the same routine that we did when she was learning to drive. I will get into the passenger seat but fail to put on my seatbelt. I don’t say anything. Then I see how she reacts. Sometimes she just sits in the driver’s seat and looks indignantly at me until I strap-in. Other times she will make some comment while sighing heavily. The important thing is that she doesn’t start the car until she is assured that everyone is belted- in. Obviously this includes her as well. Oh, and Audrey Dog too.
As the time approached for her to take her driver’s test, she would report on what she had heard from her friends; that this DMV location had the toughest testers, or that DMV location was to be avoided because it was located in a congested area which presented greater challenges to the student. Go to this site; no, no, go to that site. Pray that you don’t get this instructor.
Then she heard from a friend who flunked her driver’s test. The girl was in the driver’s seat, understandably nervous, but ready to go. The instructor was one of the testers reputed to be “tough” and “mean.” He snapped at the student “well, aren’t you going to start the car?” She complied, not realizing that she had already flunked the test. She flunked of course because the instructor was not strapped in. As he later explained to her, even though she was the student, as the driver she was responsible to ensure that both she and her passenger were safely strapped-in. No matter how subordinate she might feel, she was in charge, and needed to accept that responsibility.
When my daughter told this story to me, and declared “Gee, Dad, you were right” I figured that I had better cherish it, as it will probably be one of the few times-or only time- that I ever hear that! And kudos to that “mean” DMV instructor who was also right in impressing upon his student the importance of strapping-in.
The July 23, 2012 New York Times newspaper has an article on page A15 titled “After a Night of Celebration, Mourning 5 killed in a Queens Accident”. It is a desperately sad, gut-wrenching story of a horrible single car accident. Eight people were riding in a Mercedes SUV equipped with seven seatbelts. Apparently only one person, a 26 year old man was buckled in. The 45 year old woman driver was speeding and ran two red lights just before the accident. At the point where two lanes of the expressway merge into one lane, the SUV struck a concrete support and flipped several times. It then burst into flames.
Five people, including an eight year old girl and a nine year boy were killed. The driver survived but is in critical condition. A seven year old boy survived and is in stable condition. And the 26 year old man who was apparently the only person buckled in? The arriving rescue personnel found him sitting on a curb; the article makes no mention of any injuries.
The accident is under investigation. When it is completed, I suppose we will know how the five people died. Perhaps they died from smashing into one another and the interior of the car as it flipped over and over. Maybe they were knocked unconscious and could not escape the flames. Apparently alcohol was not a factor.
At this point it is premature, perhaps even a bit callous on my part to speculate what-ifs, but I am going to do it anyway. What if the driver of the car, who in my mind is responsible for the safety of everyone in the car, had ensured that all her passengers were wearing their seat belts before she ever put the car in gear? What if she had informed the eighth passenger that she could not take him if there was no seatbelt for him because in the event of a rollover, his body becomes deadly as it smashes into the other passengers? What if the adults had acted like adults to protect the children, by at least ensuring that they were buckled in?
A mourner waiting outside of the hospital where the survivors were taken is quoted as saying “Did God go to sleep on us?” Perhaps God was expecting the folks in that car to at least meet Him half-way in providing for their protection.
Keep these folks and their loved ones in your prayers.
Some words and how they are perceived reflect their times. As a high school student in the early 70’s I usually associated the word “ejected” with jet fighter pilots ( yes, I know it is aviators for the Navy folks) for whom ejection from their disabled aircraft over Vietnam was an unhappy but usually life-saving technique. It usually connoted some greatly constrained degree of control on the part of the pilot as to when and where to eject. A pilot did not eject until he made the decision that he could no longer push his aircraft any closer to an airfield, or out of enemy territory, or away from populous areas.
After Vietnam, I don’t remember that the word ejected was used much. The local newspaper might report of a drunken patron ejected from a nightspot with the help of burly bouncers, or an outraged parent from a contentious school board meeting. But that was about it for ejected.
In recent years the word has taken on a new prominence, a tragic one without the possibility of pilot control or a life-saving technique or that the drunk will only suffer a hangover the next morning after being ejected. Now the word is seen almost as a footnote to news reports of traffic fatalities where the automobile driver or his passengers suffer fatal injuries after being ejected from the vehicle. Often there is no mention that the victim was not wearing a seat belt, as if there is no connection between being ejected and the willful and deliberate decision not to strap-in.
My old faithful Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary gives the definition for eject: 1a to drive out, esp. by physical force b:to evict from property 2: to throw out or off from within. How I wish for a time when that word would only need to be used in describing the drunk customer being evicted from the bar.
Audrey says woof.
When last this intrepid virgin blogger’s fingers danced across the keyboard, Audrey Dog was on my lap. As she is a bit under the weather right now, I must blog without my faithful wing man- uh- dog. That is, my faithful wing dog.
My dedication to using seatbelts goes back thirty years and then some. As a college student I waited tables in a popular restaurant and night spot. One of my co-workers was a really great guy- hardworking, always willing to lend a hand, and cheerful. This was in spite of his having experienced a traumatic personal loss. He had been driving his car with his girlfriend as his passenger when the car went off the road, into a ravine, and rolled several times. The car was hidden from sight down in the ravine and so they were not found for some time.
My friend was trapped in his seat and could not move. His girlfriend was not wearing a seat belt. She went through the windshield, was badly cut and trapped in the broken windshield. She bled to death as my friend watched, literally inches away, but unable to help her.
Every time I get into car I look for the seatbelts with the visual of how my friend must have felt as he watched his girlfriend die. Every time I am the driver of a car I ensure that every passenger is strapped in. I don’t take their word for it; I look for myself. And if a passenger tells me that he doesn’t want to strap in, then he walks.
I have to check on Audrey.
People probably consider me to be one of those late bloggers in life. It’s not that I am anti-social, it’s just that I assumed a blogger to be an old video game where frogs jump from lily pad to lily pad in a bog. Over a log. In the fog. Stop me before I hurt myself.
To make it less stressful for me to blog, I decided to lean upon my support system. Hence Audrey. Audrey Dog. Our family refers to her as Audrey Dog; I don’t think we know why, but it is no doubt a sub-conscious attempt on our part to confirm to ourselves that we are the humans and she is the dog.
As a stay-at-home dad, I look to Audrey to get me moving in the morning, usually by licking my toes as I fix breakfast for my wife and teenage daughter. After we send them off to their respective days, Audrey usually sits on my lap and we read the newspaper. Frequently we read of a news item that makes me wonder if Audrey might represent a life form that is much more intelligent than humans.
Several days ago we saw a video clip on the local news which is one of those news items. It touched a nerve with me as it involves a simple choice in life for which I am very passionate; have been passionate for over thirty years, and am even more passionate now that my daughter has her driver’s license. I will try to include the link to this video. If the link does not work, let me tell you that the video is described as “awesome”, and the human shown is “one lucky guy, dude, etc.” The video shows an automobile accident in which the car rolls over, and the passenger is thrown out through the open sunroof, to land a few feet away, apparently uninjured.
Even if you are such a fierce libertarian that you will put your own life at risk in order to defy government mandated safety standards, or traffic laws requiring the use of seatbelts, such a blatant act of stupidity to not wear a seatbelt is beyond my comprehension. Even if the passenger was drunk, if he was able to manipulate the door handle to get into the car, he should have been able to connect one piece of metal into another. Even if his intended destination was only a short distance away, he should have remembered from high school physics that a body in motion tends to stay in motion until it is stopped by a seatbelt or the shattered windshield as his unbelted body connects with it.
Then there is the presentation of the video more as a form of entertainment than as an opportunity to advocate for the use of seatbelts. The television news readers gave no admonitions- no “now kids, don’t try this at home”- kind of speech. Yes, it is an amazing video, but given the potential consequences I think it should have been presented a bit more seriously.
Audrey enjoys riding in the car. She likes sitting at the steering wheel when the car is parked, but if the car is going to be in motion, we take the time to strap her into her seatbelt. If it is good enough for Audrey, why can’t humans figure out it is good for them?