Safe Driving
by Ray Fowler, MD
Copyright Jan 1, 1988

(Time in Space Home)

            A lot of years have come and gone as I've squished the red clay of this county between my toes. Coming home to carve out a career patching up the sick and dying here in Douglas County brought me new focus. I've seen my life-long buddies bouncing around inside and outside of vehicles on our thoroughfares and wondered why they haven't been more careful.

            So, I began to sit up and take notice of how people that come to my emergency stretcher get injured in automobile accidents. I started asking them what caused their accidents. Over the years I then compared what I saw at the bedside in the clinic with what happened or nearly happened to me on the road as I drove around.

            As someone who drives about thirty thousand miles annually, I get plenty of time to reflect on my interactions with other vehicles on the road. In the last few months I started jotting down some of the mistakes that I see happening in the streets that have brought grief to someone I know.

            Please read the suggestions that I make below. Cut them out and pin them up somewhere to remind you when you drive. Give them to a new teen-age driver in your family and MAKE THEM MEMORIZE THEM.

            Perhaps, in so doing, someone you love may avoid a serious accident that scars or kills him or someone else. Remember Fowler's First Law of Driving: Faces and windshields do not mix.

Rule #1: Never EVER take your eyes away from an intersection as you approach it, not even for an instant.

Rule #2: Never dial a car phone as you approach an intersection.

Rule #3: Never take the blind spots in your car for granted. There will ALWAYS be a vehicle lurking in them.

Rule #4: Avoid driving in someone elsels blind spots.

Rule #5: Take Gap, give Gap. Borrowed from our Canadian friends, this means ALWAYS maintain a healthy distance from the car in front of you, and give a bigger gap when going faster or during bad weather.

Rule #6: Don't speed. There is really no need for it. It increases your stress, shortens your life through worry of getting caught, significantly increases the risk of an accident, and saves very little time, especially on a trip of under an hour.

Rule #7: Be a patient driver. Dr. Ray's quote of the day, "Never hurry up to wait in line". Take your time, get there when you get there, and if you need to get there sooner, leave earlier.

Rule #8: Don't drink (or do ANY drugs) and drive. If you do, I hope to heaven you get caught. You belong behind bars if you do.

Rule #9: Wear your seat belt!!! At any particular time while in the front seat, you are about 1/loth of a second away from the windshield. You will not be able to prevent smashing the glass with your face upon impact. Thousands of patients that I have seen will testify to that. You should see the scars in the foreheads of many pretty girls that have come to me as patients after they hit the windshield.

Rule #10: Put kids in car seats. It is immoral not to protect children if they can be protected. The number of parents I have seen crying big fat tears in the ER because they DIDN'T have their children belted in before they were seriously injured or killed would make you sick to your stomach. When you see kids standing up in a car near you in traffic, GET MAD!!!

Rule #11: Make your next car purchase one with an air bag in it.

Rule #12: Use your time effectively while driving. Get audio tapes and listen to them. Meditate. Practice progressive relaxation (do stay awake and alert, however). I jotted many of the notes for this article (very carefully) while waiting at traffic lights over several weeks.

Rule #13: As you approach an intersection, LOOK, then look again before you go through. Be SURE you looked carefully. This especially applies to railroad crossings.

Rule #14: NEVER exceed conditions. If the road is wet, expect it to be slick and slow down. If there is a heavy amount of water on the road, slow way down to prevent hydroplaning.

Rule #15: Know your vehicle. Get very familiar with the location of lights, turn signals, and emergency blinkers.

I know because I see the results of accidents that if everyone would practice the above rules, the number of accidents and injuries on the road would be miniscule. As it is, we slaughter on American highways annually as many people as were killed in the entire Vietnam conflict.

Safe driving, folks! For yourself and for the ones you love.