Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the day “March 19, 2023”

Delaying The Inevitable

This post was going to have a completely different direction when I started. But a tragic local headline served a stark and horrific reminder instead.

I wanted to talk about traffic and driving experiences. I am one of many parents who have children who have delayed getting their drivers licenses, a right of passage growing up. Where I live, the area seems to grapple with a loss of gravity, as the nearly daily accidents involve some sort of rollover of their vehicle, including from either a straightaway or pulling out in an intersection. No, when I originally came up with this filler piece, it was nowhere near as heavy as I write it today.

The picture is a screenshot from my phone, credited to local news agency, UC Breaking News – SWFL. The headline reads, “13-Year-Old Boy Killed In Crash.” Again, as I mentioned, daily car crashes here are not uncommon, and it seems that deaths or at least severe injuries occur nearly every day. There were not many details released. A car, driven by a 17-year-old girl, had three passengers, two aged 13 years of age, and a 10-year-old. She attempted to make a left turn, thinking she had the right of way, or at least enough distance, and instead was hit by another vehicle, being driven by a 30-year-old father, and his 3-year old child. This turn was attempted at night. The accident is being investigated. But one definite fact has been reported, a 13-year-old boy was killed in the accident.

Of course, social media does not disappoint, with all the know-it-alls and just plain assholes, offering their commentary and disrespectful, hurtful comments. A lot of discussion needs to be had about this accident for sure, regardless of anything that comes out of the investigation. One thing that was confirmed, all passengers and drivers in both vehicles were wearing seatbelts, or this would have been much worse.

As a teenager, all I wanted to do was drive. The day I turned 15-years-old, I could not wait to rush out and get my learner’s permit. With a birthday occurring in the wickedest time of the year weather-wise, Winter, I would learn to drive in extreme conditions not experienced by my friends born in April or July. The furthest thing from my mind, was ever getting into a car accident, a clear case of the “it will never happen to me.” And for over 35 years, I kept that record in tact. That is right, that record came to an end, five years ago.

In a scene reminiscent to the story written above, only I know my details accurately, I had a left turn arrow, and was actually following behind a police cruiser who was also turning. But a young woman driving a Challenger in the opposite direction, was approaching, clearly without a green light, through the intersection. The police officer had just completed his turn. She was coming straight at me. A last-second maneuver, a hard turn left, turned my eventual collision from head-on, to her hitting my right passenger side. I do not recall much of the accident other than the sound of the impact. I remember the officer, who had turned around, witnessing the impact in his rear view mirror, asking me if I was okay. I was a little woozy, but I did not seem injured.

I deal with flashbacks when I have to drive that intersection, but otherwise, I had begun my accident-free streak again from that point on.

Having two teenage daughters, I knew there would come a day, that each would want to get their driving licenses. And why shouldn’t they? As I said, it is a right of passage. The fact that it was something that should happen, did not take away the many memories that haunt me of others that I knew, or had heard about, involved in car accidents. Admittedly, my memories really only hold on to those killed in car accidents. As a teenager myself, there were so many.

The first occurred during my senior year, a friend was killed driving across a bridge known for being hazardous, especially during inclement weather. Another friend, killed just after graduation in a vehicle purchased by his parents as a gift. The most personal for me occurred when my first ex-wife was hit head-on, on a dark two lane road. Driving a Geo Storm, she was hit by a Ford Crown Victoria. Somehow, she survived, hurt badly, but survived.

But these personal memories definitely impacted my motivation, rather, lack of motivation to encourage my daughters to seek their drivers licenses. I used all kinds of rationale from not necessary, to expense, and even relied a bit on their own lack of impulse to pursue the process. I would tell my daughters, “you know, by getting a license, you will be asked to run errands all the time,” capitalizing on how they often did not like being interrupted or, “if you want to borrow the car you will need to do this,” blackmail, the exchange simply not worth the inconvenience.

I have driven all over the country. And as I have, I constantly changed my opinion of which places were the worst to drive, whether road conditions or drivers. Along the way, Florida held that title for me once before and has regained my opinion of worst place to drive again. As my picture above shows an intersection in China, the photo was taken by me, that was what I thought was the worst place for traffic. Having witnessed all types of transportation, from tractor trailers and buses, to cars, to motorcycles and mopeds, to bicycles and pedestrians, it was clearly a “circle of life” situation with the strongest surviving. I had even witnessed an accident with someone opening a car door into a cyclist who had been trapped in her lane of travel. It was a sickening thud.

Here where I now live, in south Florida, there is not a day that goes by, there are at least two or three accidents, one of them severe, at least every other day involving a death. If it involves a car, there is likely a rollover involved, which does not make any sense from the lack of curves in the roads, and in most cases, traffic does not move that fast because of the amount of cars tying up traffic. Then, just as in China, you have all of these other vehicles on the road, not just trucks and buses, but because this is a tourist area, there are these funky vehicles, three wheelers, electric rickshaws, vespas, all risking their lives having less physical protection around them in the event of an eventual crash. And of course, pedestrians and cyclists are constantly getting hit by vehicles. Did I mention aggressive drivers?

And so, we have a tragedy like just occurred. There needs to be discussions about the circumstances. I know we are a country of people that do not want to be told what to do, but dammit, when we do not use common sense, such as drunken driving or texting while driving, something needs to be done to protect the innocence.

My biggest fear next to my own daughters driving, has always been them, being driven by someone else. Of course, them driving the family car, we would be aware of. But going for a ride with a friend or classmate, as the expression goes, “what we don’t know…” Well, my daughters as of now, still do not have their licenses, and it is likely they will not anytime soon, because they have realized they do not need them at their current stage. They will get their licenses eventually, but right now, they do not need them. They know this. That means, their friends do the driving. I have no idea when or how often this happens. And yes, they are to offer gas money. But as I pass cars filled with teenagers today, I see my biggest nightmare, the passengers all carrying on inside (and outside) of the vehicle, while the driver focuses on the roadway.

This tragedy is just that, a tragedy. What was a fun night for a family, has now become a nightmare. There will be lots of “coulda-woulda-shoulda”, and changes made in families who knew them, and perhaps by others who heard of the accident. But in this area particularly, the county needs to do something. Aggressive and reckless driving (such as drag racing) is at an all time high. This is not the first time a child’s life has been lost on our roads here. The first thing to dealing with a problem however, is recognizing there is a problem. And while authorities may admit to a problem, they do not publicly publicize it, you know, it is called “awareness.” If you don’t talk about the problem, it does not exist, right?

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