A Step Away From Disaster!

STOP Cutting Corners

STOP Cutting Corners!

I have tweeted a number of times related to vehicle safety, but the harsh reality is that driving a vehicle is likely the most dangerous activity that most people engage in. The term “cutting corners” originated during the horse and buggy days when cutting a corner was quite dangerous. A similar danger would still exist when towing a trailer or something of that nature. I want to share with you how a simple little distraction can cause you to lose sight of how important it is to use all your attention while you drive.

To start this story off, it was 1985 and I was a student at the Saskatchewan Technical Institute (STI which is now known as SIAST Palliser Campus). Money was pretty tight for me, in fact it was the first time I was really spending my money because throughout my teen years I was always in accumulation mode. Do you remember the days of 18 – 20% interest rates? Well, paying just to have a place to stay and the cost of school seemed to be a ridiculous use of the money I had worked so hard to earn. In order to save money I made a habit of not driving the car … besides the car wasn’t even mine, it was Dad’s; a 1977 Plymouth Arrow. I haven’t heard the term much lately, but it would definitely be described as a “beater”. I think Dad got a hundred bucks when he sold it, and that may have been generous.

STI was in Moose Jaw which is 200 km West of Lemberg (kinda humorous giving directions based on Lemberg’s location). After a few frugal outings I found that if I kept my speed at 90 km/hr and didn’t drive for the two weeks I was in Moose Jaw I would usually have enough gas to get all the way back to Lemberg without putting a drop of fuel in the tank. One time I cut it a little close and Mom ran out of gas Saturday morning when she took the Arrow downtown Lemberg for groceries (which is only a couple blocks from the house). All of this to say, I was tight and watched every penny I spent because I simply wasn’t used to spending money. Wasting money was even more detestable and I came unglued when I got a ticket for parking in the STI parking lot. The stinger was that I had a parking sticker, but it was still in the glovebox. Surely they wouldn’t expect me to pay the ticket just because I didn’t put it on the car; I’m a poor student. It seemed like such a tragedy. I went and complained to the friendly folks at STI, but they said I needed to take my grievance downtown.

So downtown I flew with a grimace on my face and a scowl in my eyes. I was less patient and more irritable than folks in Moose Jaw had likely seen me … all over a parking ticket. Did you ever notice when you’re impatient the driver in front of you seems to have all the time in the world? Well this guy stops right at an intersection … there was no yield and no one was coming, why didn’t he just turn left? What a Yahoo! Well, he wasn’t going to slow me down, I was 18 years old and I had an axe to grind … I pulled next to the sidewalk to pass him on his passenger side. As I got to the intersection a young boy, likely about 7 years old stepped off the sidewalk onto the street right beside the passenger door of the Arrow. Now I realized the car had simply stopped at the intersection to let the boy cross the street. I didn’t hit him, but I saw him and he was only one step away from a very serious injury or even death. My heart nearly exploded! How could I have done something so dangerous?

I don’t know who the boy was and likely he doesn’t even remember the incident, but that day I was humbled and broken, thinking of how it could’ve been his last day and how it would have unquestioningly been my fault. His life would be over and mine would be changed forever. Actually it did change me forever and as I recall this simple foolish decision I am so very thankful that it never cost a life to learn a very powerful lesson.

At one of my recent safety presentations I challenged the audience to think of one time when a little decision had a big impact. My little decision was not being willing to wait but to keep rushing without considering or observing all the facts. Although the impact could’ve been much more devastating it served to create an extra awareness of all the activity that is going on while driving and how important it is to really pay attention. Are there times you drive without paying attention? Are you focusing on the task at hand or preoccupied with other concerns? Are you texting or using your cell phone while driving? Not only is it illegal (in most provinces), but driving is a busy enough task without adding the extra distractions. I encourage you to stay in the moment and pay attention anytime you’re hurling 2,000 pounds down the road and please … STOP Cutting Corners!

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