Thursday, February 24, 2011

Imagine Being Driven to Keep Kids Alive?

Can you imagine being at the funeral of the father of a friend?

Can you imagine that your friend steps up behind the pulpit to share a eulogy in honor of her father?

Can you imagine her sharing the following?

"My father taught me about how precious and wonderful the gift of life is. You might even say he drove me to it. How did he do this? In a million little moments when he...

...stopped at every stop sign and looked left, looked right, looked left again to make sure the coast was clear. He didn't want to be responsible for hitting a child who suddenly appeared to cross the street while riding a bike, chasing a friend in a neighborhood game, or a neighbor out for a jog.

...never broke the speed limit. We used to pester him to "go faster, go faster. No one will know." But he was always steady in his commitment to observe posted speed limits and to go slower when he saw kids at play, people out walking, when cyclists and skaters were out and about, or when the weather took a turn for the worst. He always said, "Don't let the 2 minutes you think you are saving by going too fast be the last 2 minutes of someone's life." He knew that we all come home to loved ones and what a sad tragedy it would be if someone could not come home to their loved ones.

...never followed too close. He always kept at least a three second cushion between himself and the vehicle in front of him. He taught me that it is the three seconds before a crash that makes all the difference. If you follow to close, you can't react to how others are driving. He would say, "It's not a race, so create space."

...never texted while driving. In fact, we never saw his cell phone when he was in the car. He stashed it in the glove compartment to keep us all safe. We had many great conversations as we drove around town or on trips together. He never let a cell phone distract his attention from the road, from the family he loved, or from every motorist he encountered along the journey.

...always wore his seat belt, even on short trips to the store. He said that "seat belts are fastenating." Why? Because they help to keep us alive so that we can return safely to the ones we love. He made sure that every one in his car was buckled up before backing out of the driveway or pulling away from the curb.

...used his blinker for every turn and every lane change. He just considered it a common courtesy to communicate his intentions to every driver around him. I remember one of his favorite expressions, "be a thinker, use your blinker."

...always did a complete walk-around of the car before backing out of the driveway or a parking spot. He wanted to make sure that no little ones, or even bigger kids, were anywhere near the car. He had read too many accounts of kids who died as a result of being backed over by their own parent, brother, sister, or neighbor, or other loved one.

...never drank a drop of alcohol and then got behind the wheel. He told us that at any one time of day that between 1 and 3 percent of motorists are driving under the influence. He reminded us that this was another reason to create space between ourselves and other vehicles. We couldn't control what others do behind the wheel, but we could leave ourselves enough space to react to how others drive.

....slowed and came to a complete stop whenever that amber light flashed its warning. He also made sure the coast was clear before proceeding when the light turned green. Again, he knew he couldn't control everyone else's behaviors, but he could do all he could to keep himself and others safe. And so he did.

...waved others in whenever there was a need to merge. He would always smile and wave them in. I think it even helped a few drivers reduce their stress as they would smile and wave back in thanks.

It may seem odd to share these as memories of how Dad taught me to respect my own life and the lives of others, but the road was a classroom in which he taught me so much about the preciousness of each and every person we encounter on the road of life - whether family or friend, or a stranger - a friend we have not yet met.

Dad was always committed to doing all he could to keep kids alive - no matter what their age or where they lived. The street in front of your home was as sacred to him as the street in front of our own.

I ask only one thing as we remember Dad today, and that is for each of us to imagine all that is in our power to do to keep ourselves, our loved ones, and the loved ones of others alive each and every time we get behind the wheel or ride as a passenger in a motor vehicle. Once you imagine it, do it! Dad would love it."

And imagine that this daughter shared her love for her father in the wake of his death due to a driver's carelessness -speeding, talking on a cell phone, running a stop sign, going out of control, jumping a curb - and flying into him while he was out for a walk with his grandkids in the neighborhood.

And now imagine yourself doing all that is in your power to do to make sure you are never that driver.

What you don't have to imagine is where to visit to get the resources necessary to make your neighborhood a traffic-friendly environment for all who live and visit. Just visit

"Don't let the 2 minutes you 'save' be the last 2 minutes of someone's life." David Townsend (Tia's dad)

In safety,

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