Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"A tree never hits an automobile except in self defense." ~ American Proverb

Just in case anyone who lives in this area hasn't noticed - it's been raining the past couple of days. Some days it's been more or less a constant overcast with a little rain here or there and other days it's been like someone was standing above the State with a large bucket of water and just poured it all out at once.

Whenever it rains like this, or snows for that matter, I have to wonder the same thing - "why on earth don't drivers learn to slow down and be a little more cautious?" I have been wondering this since I first started dispatching cops way back in 1984 and I'm still wondering it 22 years later from an ambulance dispatcher's point of view.

Yesterday morning it was raining steady enough that those with some common sense knew enough to ease off the gas pedal a little bit and be a bit more cautious with their driving habits but apparently there were A LOT of others who either missed that part in the driving manual or figured the information was in there for test purposes only and once they held that coveted laminate card that gave them permission to drive they completely forgot about it. These people tossed that piece of wisdom right out of their heads along with the rule about following one car length back for each ten miles per hour of speed and yielding for pedesterians in crosswalks. As a result, a good number of them got into accidents yesterday morning.

When I first tested for my license at 17 years old, the DMV Examiner in Willimantic, who was a crotchedy old geezer, failed me the first time because he said I was "too cautious". Actually, I think he failed me because I did an absolutely horrible job of trying to parallel park the boat of a Ford Gran Torino station wagon I was driving but the official reason he gave was "too cautious". My Mom was always a fairly quiet woman but I can still remember her giving him a hard time about that one! At any rate, I went back several months later and managed to pass the second time so perhaps I learned to be more reckless in between tests?

Reckless now seems to be the rule of the road when it comes to driving and that's pretty scary as there are A LOT more cars on the roads now than there were back when I first started driving. If I'm no longer comfortable driving with over 30 years experience, how anxious do you think I am to let Amanda even think about learning how to drive in the next two years? Trust me, I'm not looking forward to it at all and even she made the comment the other day while we were making a short trip across town that she wasn't in any big hurry herself.

Driving is no longer the fun activity that it once was. As a kid, I can remember my parents loading us into the car for a Sunday drive through the mountains of Arizona or the swamplands of Florida; my grandfather used to pile at least a half dozen of us grandkids in the car and take Sunday drives through Connecticut and Rhode Island; and I myself have driven back and forth across country too many times to count.

My very first long distance road-trip of my own was when my friend, Carol, and I packed up my 1976 Chevy Chevette with a ton of 8-track cartridges and took off from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey to trek cross-country to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City. It was a grand trip and we had a marvelous time but we were young (18), gas was cheap back then, and the roads really were "open" and not nearly as crowded as they are now.

The last long-distance driving trip I took was two years ago when my Mom and I took the girls out to live at their new home in Louisville, Kentucky. By the time I got home from that trip I had to practically pry my hands from around the steering wheel and I vowed that my long-distance driving days were over. We were in a minor accident when some guy changed lanes into the side of our car in Maryland, we witnessed a hit-and-run roll-over right in front of us when some guy changed lanes and tagged another car in Pennsylvania (luckily no one was killed but someone easily could have been), and the traffic the entire trip was absolutely ridiculous. That trip squashed whatever joy I might have ever had in driving somewhere as calling 911 twice in one trip is certainly no hallmark of a good time!

Driving is now a chore that I undertake to get from point A to point B and that's about it. Just getting out of Norwich to drive up to my Mom's house in Canterbury can be a headache and a half depending on the time of day! Heck, I have a mile and a half commute to work and even THAT can be harrowing at times, especially in the afternoons. With school buses now back on the road I'm sure it will be even more "fun".

Were I to wear one, I would tip my hat to every one out there who is a professional driver and has to deal with traffic and inattentive drivers and recklessness on a constant basis. Kudos to you all! And to everyone else - maybe we could slow down a little and be a bit more careful? Not just for ourselves but for those we love.


  1. Hmmm...I never knew you felt that way about driving. See, I'm the opposite; I LOVE driving - short and long hauls. I never had the opportunity nor the inclination to drive a whole lot until I met my wife. Melissa opened my eyes to "...A whole new world" (to quote the song from "Aladdin"), and I haven't regretted a single mile since. The most fun we had was in 2003 when we drove from Westerly, RI to San Antonio, TX. then back again via a different route each way to cover more of the U.S. I learned so much, and actually became "addicted" to traveling long distances. BTW that doesn't mean I'll volunteer for every "Distance Transfer" that gets called in @ work - hahaha!!

  2. Well, like I said, I used to love to drive. I've driven in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and a host of other big cities, and never gave it a thought but now ... now I can see why people succumb to road rage at times. I'm not sure if it's just the sheer number of people on the road or the driving inabilities of those sheer numbers. Either way it's too bad because I used to love to go on road-trips both short and long and I can think of no better way to see the country than through the windows of an automobile.

    I don't know - maybe it's all part and parcel of growing up and growing old? Or maybe I just need the right co-pilot??

  3. Anonymous8:31 AM EDT

    I don't mind driving.... when I can stay awake!! Why is it that the hum of the road and the basically unchanging view of the highway is enough to put someone who just downed a large turbo coffee to sleep !?! The worst part of driving when i can stay awake, however, is the COST!!! I can kiss an hour of work good-bye just paying to get there!!!

  4. And that's where it's nice to actually live in the Rose City - despite the fact that a good part of the drivers here seem to be the thorns of said rose!


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