Protect Your Kids! Teach Car Safety.

The Author

The Author as a 6th Grader

I’ve been struck by a car going 35-40 miles per hour and lived to tell about it. Most kids eleven years old don’t survive to tell such a tale. Too many of them aren’t talked too enough to know they can prevent it by having a little fear.

The other day I was driving out of my neighborhood, past my local elementary. A young girl was walking on the sidewalk in front of me to my left. A car was parked on the right sidewalk and appeared to have people in it. I noticed all this as I was approaching. I felt the hair stand up on the back of my neck and took my foot off the accelerator. Suddenly, without warning, without looking the little girl turned from the sidewalk directly into the street and directly into my path. She was walking to the car. Fortunately, I’d sensed this might happen. Though I was prepared for it, I still needed to quickly, firmly apply my brakes and screeched to a stop. My 7000-pound Chevy Avalanche skidded. I was only driving about 20 miles per hour. The little girl crossed in front of me and never looked up at me. She was about 3 feet from the grill of my truck.

As has happened too many times I was instantly transported back 37 years to January 5, 1976. The day I was almost killed doing something very similar to that unknowing little girl.

When I was 11 years old my older brother and I shared a Seattle Times paper route. Back then the Times was an afternoon paper and we took turns delivering the daily news to the residents around Crossroads in Bellevue, Washington. January 5 was a cold and rainy night. As is the norm at that time of year in the Northwest it was dark by 4:30pm.

I was returning home from my route. I’d made it a regular practice to ride my bike through the Crossroads Shopping Center parking lot in making the 2 mile ride home following my delivery of the papers. I’d also made it a habit to cross 4-lane NE 8th Street about 100-yards from the traffic light…and nearest cross walk. It was the first Monday following what was then called the Christmas vacation. So more people were at work that day and at that time coming home. I waited and waited for a clearing in the traffic in order to cross the busy street. It seemed like an eternity.

In being a little impatient, I saw a small opening and began pedaling my ten-speed across the street as I had done a-hundred times before. I quickly knew I’d made a bad decision. Two cars were descending upon me in the rain and dark of a cold January night. Still, I thought I could make it. I pedaled faster; reached the far curb and yanked up on my front handle-bars. I had performed this exact act many times without fail, to hop the curb and continued into the parking lot, and subsequently onto the rest of the way home. On this night my hop was short. I hit the curb with my front tire and bounced back into the road, and the on-coming car.

It’s amazing how everything slows down when faced with a perilous situation. I distinctly remember hitting the curb and then bouncing back. Almost instantly the brand new blue Cadillac hit me broad-side and sent me flying through the air. For the rest of my life I’ll remember turning upside down in the air, and with me upside down as if hanging by my feet my forehead smashing against the vertical street-side part of the curb. I tumbled onto the sidewalk, lay there for just a moment, then stood up. I was a big kid. Already 5-foot 10-inches. I stretched out my full length. My newspaper-carrier poncho fell twisted around my shoulders. And then…gravity pulled me back to the ground. I collapsed and smashed my head again.

Seemingly instantly I was surrounded by caring people asking if I was OK. I don’t know where they all came from. Someone had a blanket and covered me as I laid on the concrete trying to cope with what had just happened. All I could think was, “My Dad was going to be pissed!”. I remember repeatedly apologizing to everyone who was helping me for causing them so much trouble. I couldn’t bring myself to spit out the blood in my mouth. That would have been rude, in front of all those people. So I just swallowed it. I can still taste it.

The ambulance arrived in a hurry. Paramedics quickly began looking me over. They paid particular attention to my right arm. One said to the other, “It looks like he cut it off.” Having not scanned myself. I didn’t know what he was talking about. I couldn’t feel my whole right side. So I thought he was talking about my right hand. Then the same EMT looked me in my eyes and said, “Where else do you hurt?”. “Huh?” I replied. “Besides your hand, where else do you hurt?”. “My right leg kinda hurts.” My leg is where the car had made direct contact.

It was eleven days after Christmas. I was wearing my first ever pair of new jeans. They were Swabbies, with the BIG patch pockets. They were very popular in 1976. And they were the first cool clothes I’d ever had. The first that weren’t hand-me-downs. The EMT took out some scissors and began cutting my first-ever brand new pants. And for the first time I began to cry. The paramedic, a 20-something guy, stopped cutting and asked if he was hurting me. I cried “No. You’re ruining my new pants”.

Shortly after, they hoisted me onto a gurney and loaded me into the ambulance. My leg was badly bruised; in coming days turning purple from my shin to my hip. I had a big bloody scar on my forehead. It looked like the worst kind of floor-burn you might get from taking a charge or diving for a loose ball on the basketball court. Only worse. My bottom lip was split, leaving me with a slight, permanent fish- hook shaped scar. And my hand survived. But my right index finger didn’t. It was completely severed. Fortunately, I was wearing gloves. So the last two digits of my pointing finger didn’t end up on NE 8th Street run over by the many cars that sped by, hurrying home. It was re-attached.

Over the next 3 years I had four surgeries to straighten the finger out, and to get the blood flowing properly. But nothing worked. It’s a bent stump, with a permanently frozen knuckle to this day. And it will be the rest of my life.

I was lucky that night. My head trauma could have been much worse. My other fingers and hand could have been more seriously mangled. And while my clear and sober mind reminds me of how lucky I was, every time I slam on my brakes to avoid hitting a kid too impatient to look and wait for traffic, every time I hear screeching tires, and every time I see a car-pedestrian accident is depicted on TV or in the movies I’m instantly transported back to this nightmare. And it is a nightmare. One you don’t want your children to experience.

Talk to your kids about obeying traffic laws. It’s Summer time and they’ll be out and about a lot more. Tell them to be patient and to cross at the

Me and My Dog Sheiba- My Hand in a Cast behind the dog

Me and My Dog Sheiba- My Hand in a Cast behind the dog

cross walk. Tell them to never step in front of a moving car unless you have absolutely made eye contact with the driver and you know they see you. Tell them the pain of being impatient, or of lacking respectful care is too much. Tell them a friend told you how bad it can be.

My severed finger today

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Driving Pet Peeves that drive me crazy.

Example variable speed limit sign in the Unite...

Do you ever have a need to VENT, then do so and feel better for having done it? Well, I’ve been made a literal cauldron by the antics of drivers during this past weeks snow storm, so I thought I’d let off a little steam. I invite you to join me on this one. Let’s give a literary bitch-slap to those rude, discourteous, dangerous and silly drivers we all encounter on our public thoroughfares.

What got me so frazzled the most this week was watching the incredible number of drivers who rolled right through traffic lights

English: LED traffic light in Forest Hill, New...

These are to be recognized, not ignored

that had been disabled by a power outage. Such actions are extremely dangerous and unlawful. I thought I’d mention the unlawful part because based on the rate of violations I saw this week I’m quite certain many people are unaware that when you come upon a disabled traffic light you are to treat it as a four-way stop sign.

Tailgaters always frustrate me. But to tailgate someone while driving on ice is the height of idiocy. If anything you should be extending your distance between your vehicle and the car in front of you when driving on such slippery roads. Under normal driving conditions I will only tailgate for brief moments. When coming up on a slow driver, usually a Subaru driver,

Subaru of America

who can’t seem to manage to drive the speed limit I am likely to come up too close to their backside to let them know  that I’m there and that I wish to see them drive the speed limit. I’ll then quickly back off to allow for a safe space between vehicles. I might tailgate the discourteous, clueless types who occupy the passing lane of the freeway while not passing anyone; again, Subaru and Volvo drivers seem to favor this practice. Again, I’ll get up close to sort-of say “HELLO?!” before backing off to a safe distance. This just in…in most states it’s against the law to inhabit the passing-lane and not pass anyone. Hello?!

Something that is nearly the entire providence of Subaru drivers and small pickup truck drivers is to merge onto a 55 or 60 mph freeway at 40 miles-per-hour. This usually only affects me if I’m behind this klutz. If on the freeway I’m usually in the passing lane tailgating some other Subaru driver. Were I in the right lane such 40 mph merging practices would put my safety in jeopardy as well as that of the first several cars behind me.

Is there anything easier in life than turning on the

Vehicle with its left directional signal activ...

turn signal for a standard vehicle? I think not. And yet people fail to do this all the time. I’ll give Subaru drivers a brake on this one. They’re usually so ultra-safe to the point of annoyance they might be guilty of using their turn signal too much, like signaling to take a freeway exit 1/4 mile before you get there.  With turn-signaling you can do it with your pinky finger while maintaining a grip on the steering wheel with your remaining four fingers and thumb. How many things in life can you do with your pinky finger? However long the list, it’s a pretty short list. And whatever is on that list I can’t imagine anything being more significant than turning on the turn signal for your vehicle to signal your intentions to ALL the drivers in front and behind you. It’s easy do it! And do it every single time, please. In instructing my two oldest kids to drive I consider the most sage advice I can give them is to “be predictable for all the other drivers and pedestrians you encounter while operating a motor vehicle“. Be predictable.

Lots of other driver’s habits irritate me. But I thought I’d leave room for you to vent too. Go ahead. You’ll feel better.

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