|Photo by Jean Sander|
I spent part of the morning yesterday thinking about loaded guns. I wondered what people would think of the idea of equipping nearly every person, aged 16 and up, with a loaded gun and allowing them to do whatever they wanted with it. Of course, there would be some training, although very few regulations would apply to that. And people who were certified would conduct tests and only issue a license to carry the gun upon passing. Then there would be laws, but most people carrying the loaded guns would break some, or most, of them from time to time.
What do you think of the idea? Do you think most 16-year-olds would be responsible enough to handle the loaded gun with the proper care? How about angry people? People in a hurry? People distracted by a myriad of things other than where they were pointing the loaded gun? Drunk people? Tired people?
Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Yet we step outside of our homes, climb behind the wheel of our cars and head out onto the road where all sorts of people are pointing ‘loaded guns’ at us. Sometimes, we’re the ones with the loaded guns.
On Friday, as I was driving on I-79 North on my way to a writing conference, I came upon the most hideous of scenes near the I-80 exit. Had I been a couple of minutes earlier, literally, I might not have seen the wreck; I might have been in the wreck. Today, you might be mourning the loss of me, rather than reading about my experience and the effect it is having on me.
A man from Arkansas was driving south on I-79 when, for some unknown reason, he crossed the wide sloping grassy median and crashed head-on with another vehicle … a vehicle that could have been mine, had I not stopped at a red light on my way out of town. People were pulling over, jumping out of their cars and running to help the victims. One man was on the side of the road trying to slow everyone down, before another collision occurred. Suitcases and automobile parts were strewn across the highway. And off to the right were two white vehicles – one, badly damaged and another … another.
It is hard to describe what the other vehicle looked like, although it is deeply embedded in my mind. The image will not go away any time soon, because it was obvious, seeing the mangled shadow of what was, that the person driving was no longer with us. And knowing … knowing … that white SUV could have easily been my little black Honda.
The other image I will carry with me, is that of the Arkansas driver, who was on the ground (possibly thrown from his vehicle) with blood pouring from his mouth. I cannot shake the picture of his eyes … the confused look on his face. He had a ‘loaded gun,’ and it killed someone. It killed someone.
Oh how we casually climb behind the wheel of our cars and head out to carry on our lives without considering the power we have to rob someone else of theirs.
Was the man from Arkansas tired as he was driving? Had he fallen asleep? Was he distracted, responding to a text message perhaps? Was he reaching into the back seat to grab a snack? Was he turning the radio knob, trying to find a good station? Had he spilled hot coffee on his lap, dropped a cigarette, or argued with his wife on the phone? Did someone else pull into his lane and push him off the road? I don’t know. I don’t know what happened to cause him to careen down the grassy slope and back up again into the path of traffic going north. I just don’t know. What I do know is that he descended into the valley of the shadow of death. He survived, but someone else did not.
Will the man from Arkansas casually climb behind the wheel of his car ever again? I doubt it. He knows the power of the loaded gun … the power to destroy an innocent life.
Our cars are weapons, folks. They serve a purpose, of course. A good purpose. But they also can be used as unintentional weapons. They have the power to change a person’s life forever. Do we blame the cars? Just as guns do not kill people, neither do vehicles. They are just weapons of destruction when put in the wrong hands. Or put in the hands of the angry. Or the tired. Or the drunk … or the distracted.
Put your hands on the wheels. Put your mind on the road in front of you. Stop at stop signs. Don’t run red lights. Use caution on dark, or wet, or icy roads. Think ahead about what could be around the curve. Be considerate of others. Instruct your teenagers about what is and is not appropriate behavior behind the wheel. Impose rules … it might not be popular with them, but it just could save their lives.
As bad as the images are that are trying to wreak havoc with my peace, they are nothing compared to the pain of the family and fiancée of the man from Conneaut who died one ordinary day while he was driving home from work … simply driving home from work. May God grant mercy to those who are suffering.