Thursday, September 23, 2010

When You See A Sign Like This ...

Caption: This is a road sign I saw quite a few of in Oregon. In fact, I'd say we saw too many of them.

Image credit: Cujo359

This blog isn't meant to be autobiographical. To the extent that it's about what I write, or what I want to vent about, it's about me, but it's not in any other respect. Which, I suspect, is one of its charms.

For that reason, I'm going to leave a lot of detail out of this story. It's about something that occurred during my most recent trip, and I'll just leave it at that and get to the point: Signs like the one in this picture are something you should take seriously.

Yes, many of them seem to demand that you drive at a ridiculously slow speed around those turns or obstacles they're warning you about. I'm not terribly skilled as a driver, and my vehicle isn't all that maneuverable anyway, but I can usually go through them much faster than the speed they're suggesting.

But that's not why the people who put those signs there choose those speeds.

Things don't always go well when you're driving. Even if you're trying to pay attention, and avoid obvious distractions like playing with the radio or talking on a cell phone, there are still lots of things that can distract you. There are also lots of things that you can't foresee as well around a sharp corner as you can on a straightaway. Some chipmunk, dog, or moose might suddenly decide to jump into your path for no reason. A car going the opposite way could get into trouble. An oil slick or an icy patch could be there, just out of sight until it's too late to slow down.

It's much harder to slow down or stop on a curve and stay on the road. You're much better off slowing down before you get to the curve, and accelerating out of it. Even on a set of curves you think you know, there could be trouble lurking there that doesn't usually appear, and if you have to slow down or stop from an excessive speed, it's quite possible that you won't.

I've had countless arguments over this sort of thing with people who think their driving skills can keep them out of these sorts of jams. It's almost useless to argue with them, and sadly, I've largely given up trying. Thanks to this recent incident, though, I'm seriously revisiting the idea of not riding with people who take such chances and don't listen. Coming close to being injured in an accident will do that. You see, I'm far more afraid of spending days, or the rest of my life, in serious pain from being in an accident than I am of just dying. I'm also more afraid of being permanently disabled.

That's something you should think about when you round that next curve too fast - car accidents are far more likely to screw up your life than they are to kill you.

Here's the bottom line - even if you're as good at driving as you think you are, you're not that good all the time, and you're not that good in every situation. So slow down and give yourself time to react to the thing you didn't expect to happen or the thing you weren't prepared for.

If you're foolish enough not to believe this, there's probably nothing I can do to change your mind. Still, maybe you'll be just smart enough to listen to your passengers' objections or note that they look like they're about to get carsick, and slow down.

And, as usual, I'll be very happy not to be given the opportunity to tell you that I told you so.

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