The first question was “were there any injuries” and the second was “did you get pictures?” Of course we knew that the second answer would be a resounding “yes” if the first question were answered in the negative. That’s because the driver of our company van, which was broadsided Thursday morning, was none other than our circulation manager/photographer Pete Luna.
Pete was traveling east on Nopal in the Ram Promaster City and had come to a stop at the intersection with Fourth Street. As he started forward, a woman traveling south on Fourth barreled through the intersection and slammed into the front left side of our vehicle. Luckily, the airbag deployed, which stunned Pete but saved his head from bouncing off (or through) the side window.
Pete said the driver of the Ford sedan apologized profusely, saying that she had not lived in Uvalde for 10 years and did not remember the intersection being a four-way stop, which it clearly is. She told the same story to police, so it is pretty much a cut-and-dried case.
At least one member of our staff allowed that there should be more to the incident. That is one should not be allowed to use lack of familiarity as an excuse for not obeying traffic rules.
“A stop sign is octagonal and red in color and means you must stop. To say you didn’t remember a sign being there before suggests that you aren’t paying attention to the road in front of you,” our staffer remarked.
This is all very true and underscores a weakness that stalks all who operate motor vehicles. It is so easy to become complacent behind the wheel, not only when navigating familiar city streets but also on the highway where speed greatly reduces reaction time. At 70 mph, we have a matter of seconds to avert a disaster.
Of course complacency is abetted by a host of distractions that further muddle our brains: text messaging, phone calls, music, audible books and even video chats can prove lethal if allowed to separate us from the job at hand, which is safe driving.
Once we become complacent – or distracted – the other pillar of safe driving goes out the window: defensive driving. The accident with our van reminded me of a crash long ago that involved one of my father-in-law’s best friends. The man, who was in his middle 50s at the time, was crossing an intersection in Dallas on a green light when a car ran the red light and hit him squarely in the driver’s side. He died instantly.
The lesson is that you can’t assume drivers are going to stop, whether it’s a stop sign, stop light, yield sign or any other. Don’t cross an intersection without looking both ways, even if you have the right of way.
So here is the story of our accident complete with photograph. Pete, who has taken his share of accident pictures over the years, wanted to be sure that readers know we are not playing favorites. It was just our turn in the barrel.