You Are Your Brother’s Keeper – Feb 2011

Lately we hear much about dangers of driving while distracted – through our own actions or by daily challenges invading our thoughts. You may remember a horribly tragic accident last year when a beautiful young woman lost her life on a local highway while texting on her cell phone. This spring cell phone use, texting, eating or ANY other distracting activity while driving becomes illegal in Alberta. This new provincial ruling is aimed at forcing drivers to be “their brother’s keepers” on our roadways.

Modern vehicles boast technologically advanced safety features…..sometimes giving young or inexperienced drivers a false sense of security. I’ve heard comments from young people minimizing inherent dangers in vehicle collisions – that they felt less personal driver responsibility for safety due to air bags, anti-lock brake systems, traction control & “great tires”. In our youth we all felt the thrill of being invincible, but should never doubt the life altering effects of physical injuries & subsequent emotional trauma.

I recently got an interesting email video from friend & client Bev Lanz, that described adjustment of vehicle mirrors for optimal results. It made me think about little things that increase driving safety. It’s not just your safety that counts. What about pedestrians, children & all those other “brothers” on the road?? Small changes in driving habits & increased mental awareness enhances safety for all. Keeping “brotherly love” in mind when driving can have a lasting impact on the lives of others.

Studies show the minds of children are amazing places where reality & fantasy become indistinguishable. I often marveled at my sons’ ability to play “Star Wars” or “Transformers” for hours – completely unaware of my voice (perhaps by design) or other distractions. I learned that in play, young children cease to see the actual world but see their surroundings as the landscape created by their minds & imagination. This makes them a prime target for approaching vehicles.

Years ago I was horrified to find in my mailbox a letter from a distraught driver who had almost struck a “gorgeous curly headed fellow”. My 3-yr old, Clay had come merrily zipping out from our driveway with no warning, on his “hot wheels” toy. That woman’s life & ours could have been irrevocably changed that day. About the same time Clay escaped unharmed, a young man I knew fatally injured a pedestrian causing anguish & emotional turmoil from which he may never have recovered. Would you??

A safety habit Dad taught me – while driving in congested, residential & play areas glance not at, but towards & under parked vehicles you approach. He taught me to watch for feet of children or others approaching driving lanes between vehicles. Moving feet are visible long before the bodies they carry – especially true with today’s tall SUV’s, trucks & vans which can block vision.

It goes without saying (or it should) that driving speeds be lower & driver awareness much higher in residential areas. Many Lethbridge streets & neighborhoods were built almost a century ago, designed for horses, narrow wagons, Model “T” type cars & leaving little room for larger vehicles & higher speeds. Imagine yourself as a child. Visualize what could happen on your home street if you were lost in the world of Barbie, Little Pet Shop or flying your own space shuttle (bicycle).

Much can happen in a millisecond – even at low speeds. Proper mirror adjustment quickly shows you traffic flow behind you without having to move your head – perhaps making the difference between a collision or safe avoidance of cars, pedestrians or other road hazards. If you have computer access, watch this video.

While sitting in normal driving position, lean your head against the driver’s window & adjust the left outside mirror so you barely see the side of your car. Now move it further out so you no longer see the vehicle. This eliminates “blind spots” beside & behind & shows more of adjacent driving lanes. For the right side, lean to the center of the vehicle & with your body in that position follow the same procedure. Adjust rear view mirrors to see a centered view of your back window. Mirrors CAN save your life.

Please note mirror checks should NEVER replace shoulder checks. I found it unnerving at first to no longer see my own vehicle in side mirrors but once I trusted the view, discovered a far wider scope of vehicle activity behind me. Quickly scanning all three mirrors shows positioning of adjacent traffic & available options for maneuvering my vehicle safely.

When I rode a motorcycle I quickly learned to drive not only for myself, but for every other driver on the road. I experienced drivers looking me straight in the eye & pulling out in front of me as if I were invisible or could stop on a dime. It’s never a good idea to entrust your future to others. Show a little brotherly love for your safety, safety of your passengers & all others on the road.

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