Once again we have seen lives lost on Highway 63. I don't know the details of the incident, and nor do I pretend to. Perhaps it was weather related, or some odd set of circumstances. Or perhaps it was, as it is in the majority of cases, driver error - or, as I prefer to call it these days, driver failure.
You see sometimes the weather fails us, and we have these incidents. Sometimes our vehicles fail us, and we have these incidents. And sometimes even our own bodies fail us, and we have these incidents (as I do know of cases where someone has suffered cardiac arrest behind the wheel, and a subsequent collision). All too often, though, we are the failure. All too often it is us.
I am beyond happy that twinning progress is going well on Highway 63. I have always said, though, that there will continue to be deaths even after twinning is completed if we don't have an honest, frank, and perhaps brutal conversation about why and how these collisions occur. If we don't acknowledge our own role then we will continue to see carnage on the roads, and it will take the lives of those we love - or even our own.
The reality is this: We are our own worst enemy. We drive too fast, or we drive while intoxicated. We drive while we are exhausted, or we drive when we are stressed. We fail to follow the rules of the road. We take risks. We ignore the weather and drive as if the roads were clear and dry when they are a sheet of ice. We get frustrated and we try to pass five vehicles at once. We fail ourselves, and on occasion we fail others. And sometimes we, or they, pay the ultimate price.
Recently I signed a pledge. It is one I have signed many times in my head, but this time I did it consciously and online. I made a commitment to you, and to myself. I made a commitment to contribute to a safer Highway 63 and 881, except that I consider this pledge binding whenever I step into my vehicle and turn the key. And there is another reason I signed this pledge.
Because I am going to have the Intrepid Junior Blogger sign it, too.
The IJB turned fourteen this year. One of the first things she asked for was her driver's education study booklet, and that booklet has been her constant companion ever since. She has been studiously preparing for her written test so she can get her learner's license. She has expressed some trepidation about this, a fear about learning to drive, and we talk a great deal about safety and the roads and if it is easy or hard to drive. And while she might be a little anxious about the entire thing I must admit that I am terrified, because one day soon the person most precious in the world to me will be behind the wheel of thousands of pounds of steel. She will be a driver. She will be out there on the roads - and I don't want her to fail.
You see when you are on the road you aren't just responsible for yourself. You are responsible for your passengers. You are responsible for me. And you are responsible for my daughter, a young woman just beginning her journey of driving - and life. You have her life in your hands, just as yours will one day be in hers. I expect you to hold it carefully, because I have pledged to hold carefully that of yours, and your family. I encourage you to take the pledge too, but I ask you to do more than that. I ask you to not fail. Don't fail your community, your family, or yourself. Drive safe. Drive with intention. And drive knowing that you carry on your shoulders the weight of all who share the road with you. It is a big responsibility, I know - and it is one where failure leads us all down a very dark path.
Sign the pledge. Think about what it means. And then talk about it with your friends, and your family, and your children who are drivers, or about to be. Tonight I will be doing exactly that with the IJB, and she will take a pledge to protect your life. I don't think it's too much to ask for you to do the same for her, do you?