By David HowardI’m a paver -- I’ve been working for a contractor on highway construction projects for better than 25 years now. Over these years I have travelled hundreds of thousands of miles of roads in the Midwest. I have participated in several driver training courses and been a party to promoting safe driving skills in conjunction with industry-sponsored events such as this Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day with the Kansas Department of Transportation. Through all of this, it is the words of my mother that I hear virtually every time I put my vehicle into motion, “Be a defensive driver.” Simple is almost always better than complicated, and this simple advice has not only stayed with me throughout my driving years, but has grown in value to me…my daughter is off to college and my twin boys will get their driving permits by year end.
My mother raised her sons by trusting us to do the right thing, she would say this, “I trust you.” It worked; I repeat this with my children. But, when I was young, a young driver, I tested this trust, her trust in me to be defensive about my driving, my safety. For her, no problem, no hurdle, could not be solved working together, except one of her sons getting severely injured or worse, and accidents tend to happen on our highways, my mother knew this, we all know this. I was fortunate, maybe blessed, or perhaps her words were with me even if I no longer recall them being prominent in my teenage brain in those early days of driving. I had fender-benders, but I never even saw a bad accident once I began driving. But, it was not long after going to work on the highway that I saw up close what can happen, how quickly a mother can lose a child.
One minute I was visiting with a surveyor in my pickup truck on an I-35 construction project near Guthrie, Oklahoma, and the next I was helping as best I could with the survivors of a head-on collision. Six teenagers, kids, in a car wreck, including two sets of brothers, and not all survived; mothers lost sons, a brother lost a brother. Amid the chaos of that tragedy was the lament, whimpering, of one survivor that they had brought this on themselves, been out drinking and driving all afternoon.
There are as many things that can go wrong travelling down our highways as there are cars and trucks on them, but if you put yourself in a position where you cannot be defensive about your safety, a mother could lose a son or daughter. Drinking and driving, distracted driving, an unsafe load, excessive speed – you cannot be defensive on the highway with these kinds of handicaps. And, when a truck crosses centerline, a car pulls out from an intersection not seeing you, or a man is changing a flat tire on the shoulder just over the next hill – being a defensive driver may be the only way to save a life.
So, to my children I echo, “I trust you to be defensive about your safety when driving or as a passenger in a car. As long as you are safe, we can handle everything else together.” And I repeat this, often, very often, just as my mother did.
David Howard is the President/CEO of Koss Construction Company