By Andy Bunch
This is the first in a series of articles dedicated to safety on the roads. Most people aren’t very focused on road and weather conditions in the Spring. They think of it more as a winter issue, but the truth is that each new season carries it’s own unique challenges. Spring is no exception.
#1 Distracted Drivers:
I see lots of people in the ditch during winter, but in the last three weeks I’ve seen no less than three cars on their sides. That’s from going too fast and not paying attention. The first few warm days hit and our brain chemistry changes. It’s a factor of nature. Hibernating animals wake, trees and flowers bloom, and layers of clothing come off the pedestrians walking on the sidewalk. A sort of internal distraction rises from within and there’s no shortage of shiny things to catch our eyes as we commute.
Of course, the mother of all distractions is the time change. Spring forward means your internal clock is going to take a week or even a month or two to adjust. You can’t help but drive tired. You don’t really know when exhaustion is going to hit. Even if you’re careful the other drivers are all jet lagged too.
#2 New Drivers:
A lot of people are born in the spring and graduation looms in the near future. As soon as the bad weather passes, teenagers begin their quest for driving lessons. It’s a rite of passage. Spring is the time when there are more inexperienced drivers on the road than any other time of year. If you are one, take it from me, don’t wreck your parents’ car. It’s not good. According to the CDC, “Crash risk is highest in the first year a teen has their license.”
#3 Seasoned Drivers:
There are those seasoned drivers among us who have reached an age where they just don’t need to go anywhere bad enough to venture out in bad weather. When the roads improve they may find that their vehicle sat all winter and needs a checkup. They may also find their own skills a bit rusty. Traffic revisions can be confusing when you didn’t witness any of the construction. Suddenly there’s a new intersection on your road. Or they made your favorite shortcut a one-way road. Beware of drivers going too slow.
#4 Turbulent Transitions:
Frankly, the weather in spring comes and goes. One day it’s sunny and you’re searching your garage for long lost sunglasses. Just when you get so sick of squinting you decide to buy a new pair, it rains and you have patches of ice where there is all day shade from a tree. Another challenge brought by the change of season, at least in the Pacific Northwest, is falling trees. Winter rains soften the soil and spring winds push trees over onto power lines and roads. So don’t anticipate that the road you traveled home last night will be exactly the same when you travel out to work this morning.
So what do you do about it?
- Be aware of yourself. Always make sure you’re in the best shape to drive before getting behind the wheel, because even if your loved ones aren’t with you, the driver next to you might have his/hers along.
- Be aware of the world around you. This is a healthy practice even when you aren’t driving. Seriously, notice things. Are drivers around you really young, talking on a cell phone, fighting with kids or a passenger? How are the roads? This might seem picky but the reason I mention it is that you can actually get more out of life by taking your blinders off and looking around. Is your spouse rubbing a sore neck? Is your neighbor struggling to get their garbage can back from the curb? Just notice things and be a part of what’s going on.
- Be aware of your vehicle. I used to joke that when my car made a funny noise I’d turn up the radio, car problem solved. It’s costly to ignore things. This is a leading cause of death and injury in America. Keep your car in good mechanical working order.
- The CDC provides a parent-teen-agreement that can help clarify your expectations with your teen where driving is concerned. It can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/parentsarethekey/agreement/index.html
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