Driver Courtesy Month, Because Lives Depend on It

Network News

X Profile
View More Activity
By Warren Brown
Sunday, May 13, 2007

DAYTONA BEACH I'll begin by wishing a "Happy Mother's Day" to all of you who are mothers. Thank you for all you do. Have a good one.

But as I sit here on the smoke-engulfed Florida peninsula -- there are 230 wildfires burning statewide at this writing -- my mind turns toward Memorial Day. Specifically, I'm thinking about the nearly 500 people the National Safety Council believes will die in holiday traffic over the holiday weekend.

It is an unnecessary slaughter, one that state officials and state law enforcement people nationwide are trying to limit through seat-belt law enforcement programs during the holiday driving period. Their message is this: Seat belts save lives. Wear them, or get a stiff fine for violating the most basic of traffic safety laws.

But something else is needed. I suggest we designate May -- the month when we honor our beloved mothers and those brave military people who fought and died for our freedoms -- as Driver Courtesy Month. Here's my reasoning:

I easily drive 35,000 miles or more annually. I see a lot. Mostly what I see is a lot of dangerously rude, egregiously selfish driver behavior. If we could eliminate much of that misconduct, plus wear our seat belts, I'm betting we would see a dramatic reduction in highway injury and fatality tolls.

But we need a month, sort of a test month, to demonstrate the effectiveness of courtesy in reducing highway carnage. May is the season of love, rebirth and remembrance. Let's go with that.

How will the test work?

It's simple.

Every one of us who drives a car or truck in May will take a vow of self-control. That means we will not tailgate. We will not cut into an adjacent lane, thus forcing the drivers behind us to slam on their brakes, sometimes with disastrous results. We will not give the ignoble digital salute to, or hurl liquid-filled cups or curses at, motorists who behave badly.

Are you with me? Here's more:

Think about it. Does it really make sense to exceed posted speed limits by 15 mph, 20 mph, or more? Exactly what are we trying to do when we drive that way? Save time? Get there faster? To do what?

How many stories have we heard or read about motorists racing to get to a wedding or a graduation or a party that was canceled or otherwise ruined by a fatal crash? Would it not have made more sense to leave on time, drive at a reasonable speed and arrive alive for the celebration?

Indeed, there also have been some ironically tragic incidents involving excessive highway speeds. A family starts out driving to a funeral only to wind up producing the necessity for its own memorial service and interment.

Let's have at least one month, Driver Courtesy Month, without that madness.

And let's try this, especially during the Memorial Day holiday period: Choose designated drivers and treat them like heroes at holiday parties or picnics. Introduce them to the gathering with lots of fanfare and applause. "This is so-and-so. She is our designated driver for the event. She is backed up by persons A and B, who also are designated drivers for the event. Give her and her aides all of the lemonade, water and soft drinks they want. But they don't get one beer, one drop of liquor, one glass of wine. Because they are here to help get the rest of us home safely, we ask that you honor their no-alcohol commitment."

We ought to at least give Driver Courtesy Month a shot. I mean, wouldn't it be great? We could have an entire Memorial holiday period without one traffic fatality. We could have an entire month of May without one traffic fatality.

It is not as impossible as it seems. We don't have to act badly behind the wheel. We can share the road peacefully, courteously. We just have to want to do it.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity