Somewhere along the line, safety became a crucial part of my decision-making process. I always wear my bike helmet. I put on my protective safety glasses when wielding an axe or doing something which might splinter or launch debris. In my tool closet I have a big bag of ear plugs which I put in whenever working with a power tool bigger than my cordless drill. When riding a motorcycle I always wear my full-face helmet, armored jacket, and sturdy gloves. And of course, when I am driving a car, I always check my blind spots.
Somewhere along the line, I came to appreciate that: Nobody is looking out for your safety but you.
I will often see people driving with some kind of distraction distraction, something which is taking their attention away from the operation of the heavy projectile they are steering, which could easily kill them or those around them.
Distractions like, talking on their cell phone, or even worse, looking at the screen of their cell phone. Distractions like, allowing their 10lb dog to stand on their lap and look out the driver-side window. Distractions like, gawking at the pretty houses off to the left or right of the road. If the distractions alone weren’t enough, all too often I will also see people driving less than a few seconds behind the vehicle in front of them.
I think people drive with the best-case scenario in mind: “everything is going to work out, and I will arrive safely at my destination.” Whereas I tend think about the worst-case.
When learning how to ride a motorcycle the instructor told us to ride “as if we were prey.” A useful mindset to adopt: assuming that nobody out there notices you, and if push comes to shove in an accident, you will always be on the losing end.
My phrasing of the advice, influenced by learning to fly an airplane, where the responsibility of “Pilot in Command” is drilled into the bright-eyed student pilot, and by being “prey” on a motorcycle on California highways is simply:
Nobody is looking out for your safety but you.
Unfortunately on the public roads, with pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, tiny cars, big trucks, and everything in between, it’s much more complex. You can be the most prepared, well-lit, cyclist, but you’re still going to lose in a toe-to-toe with a distracted driver.
When somebody drives unsafely, and things go wrong, the best-case scenario is that they only injure themselves. The worst-case, and unfortunately more likely, scenario is that they hurt and kill others.
As a frequent walker, rider, and driver on public roads, please take your responsibility more seriously, and drive like lives depend on it.