December 25, 2009
One of the most frequent subjects of discussion in Litchfield County is driving. Everyone does too much of it and most of us bemoan the endless hours logged behind the wheel. Add them up and the carbon footprint is not pretty. Exhibit A is my odometer.
I bought my Toyota Highlander in November 2006, and I have driven it 83,242 miles. That is over three times around the globe at the Equator. And even though it is a hybrid, which gives me a few extra miles per gallon and perhaps a slight moral sanctimony about it, that adds up to a lot of trips to school, piano, and my friend Sarah’s house. But this is not a piece about our area’s meta-dependence on fossil fuels.
Unless there is a bus from my house to LaBonne’s, I am resigned – call it the price of living in a quasi-rural area – to spending much of my day driving, and I try my best to limit those trips for my sake and the environment’s. No, what is more worrisome is the proliferating number of dangers on these roads. You can barely travel from here to there without encountering at least one. And I am here to plead for more road awareness all around. This means, in a nutshell, that we might all seriously consider slowing down. It’s getting scary out there.
Perils on the roads take many forms: moving targets, Mother Nature, the other guy. Add curving country roads to the mix, and the rush we all tend to be in as we travel on them. Then add checking for bars on your cellphone in our area known for spotty service, and kids in the back seat who need a snack or to simmer down. The result makes driving, already a statistically unfortunate activity, riskier still on these familiar roadways.
The moving targets are what most make me wipe the sweat off my brow. Animals on the road qualify, though we have all been taught to head straight for the suicidal squirrel rather than risk a deadlier collision with a tree or another car. But what terrifies me more than anything are walkers, particularly at nighttime, as well as runners, bicyclers, and people bending over their mailbox, hindquarters in the road, without a flashlight to warn traffic of their presence.