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Wednesday, June 19, 2024


Driving Safely, What’s That About?

Former Managing Editor Al Campbell.

By Al Campbell

It must be my imagination but it seems there have been more overturned vehicle crashes lately than I can recall. Without any scientific research, I’d place a poker chip on the cause of such mishaps: driver inattention.
Regardless of police departments’ warnings against texting and driving, and the use of cell phones behind the wheel, the highways have become an anarchist’s delight. Don’t bother me, I’m on the phone, seems to be the norm for a lot of licensed (?) drivers. Anything goes, or so it seems. There are no laws until you get caught.
Traffic signals are a nuisance to some drivers. At times signals are ignored because a text is too important to stop for a red light. Stop signs are greatly ignored as they apparently carry a word unknown to some motorists.
Perhaps the day will come when stop signs will have to be printed in multiple languages. A driver will shrug his or her shoulders when asked why they refused the command to bring their vehicle to a halt at an intersection.
“I don’t understand what STOP means, officer.” When that day dawns, imagine the average size of a stop sign will increase exponentially to include not only STOP in English, but also in Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Vietnamese and Chinese (since that’s probably where the darn thing was manufactured.)
There needs to be a constant refresher course on “right of way.” The vehicle with a fearless driver seems to have the right of way in many intersections. Perhaps they don’t know “right” is the vehicle at their right hand, and that vehicle allegedly has the okay to proceed.
If a requirement existed to retain one’s driver’s license that an annual driver’s test is passed, perhaps there would be a greater familiarity with traffic laws. Come on, be honest. Driver’s education classes were not the most important thing on many minds in those tender teen years. So a refresher course would come in handy.
Back to overturned vehicles for a moment. These types of motor vehicle incidents have occurred in the most unlikely of places, or so I thought. On a recent weekend, there was an overturned vehicle on Mechanic Street in Court House. The speed limit is 25 mph, but who reads speed limit signs?
My burning question, based on ignorance of the facts: If the driver was doing the speed limit at the time, how did the vehicle overturn? Most vehicles that I have driven are stable when riding along at 25 mph unless one is on a road with a 45-degree or greater incline, vehicles tend to remain upright and maintain traction on the road’s surface.
Perhaps there was ice on the road when the overturn happened.
The intersection of Routes 9 and 47 is reportedly the busiest in the county. Let’s assume it is for the sake of this column. That would mean it is clogged like a backed-up sewer line most hours of the day.
My ears – usually attuned to the police scanner in my office – could not believe what they heard last week when it was reported there was an overturned vehicle by a bank branch just south of the intersection. I did a quick replay, because that would be as unlikely as overturning in a parking lot.
It was true. There was a vehicle resting on its side in a photo sent to us by a good friend. How did that happen? I puzzled.
Vehicles are different now than they used to be. Cars were heavier and lower, maybe that had something to do with not overturning as often. Today’s penchant for higher sport-utility vehicles means they are up in the air more than those humble automobiles we used to drive.
Some of those models appear to be top-heavy, but then again, I’m no automotive engineer. Maybe they are made with lead in the frame to keep them from blowing over in a high wind.
Couple higher vehicles with drivers who seem to disdain actually d-r-i-v-i-n-g along with attention being elsewhere than the road ahead, and we get a potentially lethal combination.
Seatbelts save lives which may be a reason in the above crashes that the drivers were not seriously injured. Sadly, safe driving has taken a back seat to gadgets and good sense.

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