More years ago than I want to admit, when I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles, I remember being really impressed by a message spelled out in great big letters on one of those giant Foster & Kleiser outdoor billboards. This particular sign was sitting atop a building at the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine. At the time there was an entrepreneur and innovator known as “Madman” Muntz, some say a consumer electronics genius for his pioneering work with car stereo systems, who was turning heads with his unorthodox ad campaigns. This was when TV was not all that common in American households and Muntz was trying to promote sales for his line of low priced television sets. His sign read simply “STOP STARING AT YOUR RADIO!” Later on, during my own advertising career, I would refer to this as one of my personal top ten one-line favorites.
So, what has this to do with driver safety? Well, I also remember that about this time there was another memorable billboard popping up around town. Spelled out in great big letters on these were just two words, “SPEED KILLS!” The city had located these signs at appropriate places around the city in an effort to get drivers to think about the dangers of driving too fast in town. Excessive speed was the number one cause of traffic deaths then, as it is today. Speed not only determines the extent of damage and injury in a crash but more importantly it determines whether or not we survive!
I’ve never been able to get a handle on why so many otherwise intelligent and law-abiding people get behind the wheel and are suddenly transformed into lawless, wild-eyed zombies with their tails on fire, hell-bent on getting there yesterday whether they need to or not. Especially when ample studies have shown that faster is not sooner, especially in towns and cities where the risks are manifold. I suppose this is somehow a reflection of our social condition in general which seems to be immediate gratification regardless of the cost. We have to do it now, have it now, and get there now! If you’re one of these people, my advice to you is simple: If you want to get there sooner . . . leave sooner! Slow down and enjoy the ride.
Next time you’re driving in town do this little study on your own. Decide you will drive at the posted speed limit to wherever you’re going (I give you about thirty seconds before you cave in and start breaking the law). Good driving is not easy. Watch how other drivers come up behind you, tailgate dangerously, then pass you and speed ahead. Expect the one-finger salute from some. Then note how many of those same drivers are waiting for you at the next stop light. My teen students are always delighted by this. “Wow!” They say, “I never noticed that before!” By driving too fast in town all you do is waste your gas and wear out your brakes. Oh, you might gain a minute or two but you have to ask yourself, “Is getting there a little sooner worth putting myself and others at risk of death or injury?” Speed Kills!
This is not about how to drive. This is about staying alive! See you next time . . . I hope!