Are you “The Nut Behind the Wheel?”

On a recent trip to Chicago, I noticed an electronic sign as I drove into the city that stated 599 deaths had occurred from vehicle accidents. I thought that was high and wondered what was being done to reduce that number. The sign then changed to address texting. I am not sure what the connection was between those accidents and texting because the sign only showed those two signs alternatively. However, I assumed that texting was the cause of most of those accidents. I later drove down and across the border to Missouri where I saw another sign that stated that 469 people had died in vehicle accidents and that 60% of those were not wearing their seat belt. I wondered what Missouri officials were doing to prevent these deaths. I was shocked that more people died in vehicle accidents in the city of Chicago than in the state of Missouri.

Then I stopped dead in my thoughts (pun intended). Hasn’t enough been said to convince anyone to prevent vehicle accidents and especially to wear their seat belt and not text while driving? Hasn’t also enough said about the hazards of riding a motorcycle? My answer to that is a resounding, yes.

Roads and highways can present hazards. The vehicle that the individual is driving or riding can also present hazards. However, as my grandmother used to say, “It’s the nut behind the wheel that is usually at fault.” Safety professionals, law enforcement, public officials, and even private organizations continue to raise the level of concern about the number of people injured and killed in vehicle accidents. Not to forget about the successes that have been experienced over the years; however, the process seems to have stalled. Many of the hazards have been made safer by implementing laws, but why? Shouldn’t drivers and riders take these precautions because they are concerned for themselves and their loved ones? Yes, they should. There shouldn’t have to be a law to tell drivers to wear a seatbelt or a motorcycle rider not to drink and drive. However, that is what has taken to lower the numbers. Years ago a lot of drunken driving accidents occurred, and now the number of accidents are lower. There are also more people who won’t drink alcoholic beverages and drive, period.

Drivers and riders should take responsibility for their actions or lack of actions. They should conduct a risk assessment before start of any trip and take steps to lower their risks. Lowering personal risk means watching the road ahead and driving defensively.  It also means being prepared for the other guy’s mistakes and knowing the hazards associated with the roads and highways and avoiding them. Furthermore, it means always driving at or below the speed limit and slowing down for bad weather or darkness.

I have always been shocked that many drivers won’t take responsibility for wearing seat belts and ensuring all passengers use theirs or never drinking and driving. Unlike the actual act of driving or riding these are personal choices. Until drivers and riders accept responsibility for their actions or lack of action real progress cannot be made. Forcing drivers and riders to be safe seems like the hard way to do this. Since anyone can be the “nut behind the wheel” everyone needs to take responsibility and not depend on others to encourage them to be safe.

About Fred Fanning Author

Fred Fanning spent over 20 years in the safety profession. His final safety position was as the Director of Occupational Safety and Health for the U.S. Department of Commerce. He began writing in 1994, published his first book in 1998, and began writing professionally in 2015. He has authored and coauthored articles, written books, and chapters for technical books and stories for anthologies.
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