Our heart goes out to the family of the little boy run over and killed in the shopping center parking lot last month. Such a loss can seem beyond consolation, and we are encouraged to learn of the love and support the family has received from relatives and friends.
We hesitate to turn personal tragedy into teachable moments, but anyone reading about the incident can’t help but pause and reflect on how the incident intersects with their own lives.
One obvious connection is the motor vehicle, a machine that can be useful and liberating but also lethal. The incident at hand shows that even at slow speeds, it has the power to maim and kill. Anyone getting behind the wheel must be prepared to devote their full attention to its safe operation, and that means eliminating all distractions and taking extra precautions when pedestrians or cyclists are in the roadway.
What kind of precautions? When entering a major thoroughfare from a side street, look both ways not only once but twice – it often takes a minute or more to get that break in the traffic you need, and by then a pedestrian could be about to cross in front of you from the opposite direction.
When making a right turn after you have just overtaken and passed a cyclist, activate your signal well in advance and pull to the far right of the lane, even if it means occupying the bike lane.
In a parking lot, where the rules of the road are less well-marked and there is no such thing as pedestrian jaywalking, never drive more than 10 mph. Be prepared to stop on a dime for pedestrians and back out with extreme caution – try having a passenger get out and stop traffic if you feel safer.
Distractions can be relative, but most agree that any electronic device that requires you to look down at a keypad or screen is inherently unsafe – your eyes need to be on the road at all times. Invest in a hands-free device if you must use a cellphone while driving.
The principles of defensive driving can also be applied to pedestrians and cyclists, too. Each group is more vulnerable than a car, so don’t ride against traffic, obey stop signs and use lights and reflective gear at night.
Lastly, as the news unfortunately reminds us daily, there is no time like today to express your love and appreciation for those around you. Tragedy knows no class boundary, and it can happen anywhere and at any time. The world is not better for lives lost well before their time. Let’s hope, at the least, it makes us wiser.