100 deadliest days are over, but that leaves another 265 until next Memorial Day rolls around
Posted September 13
If you'd asked me, I would have said I was an excellent, attentive driver. So I was more than a little flummoxed to see the 20-something man separate from his shiny green 10-speed bike and go flopping over the hood of the minivan I was driving a decade ago. Ironically, I was leaving a hospital parking lot.
Stopped by a red light, I had been paying attention — though apparently not as closely as I'd thought. When the light changed, I looked left, then right, then left again. That last look left occurred as the man came from the right, having cut across the grass before turning onto the road against traffic, where he launched into the passenger-side, front portion of my vehicle as I was pulling forward.
He had apparently miscalculated how quickly I'd get moving. I like to think it was his error. But the truth is, my first clue that a man I might accidentally kill existed was what appeared to be his life passing before my eyes.
We were both lucky. He wasn't hurt. I hadn't harmed anyone. Neither of us felt inclined to press the issue, as there was lots of blame to go around. I let my vehicle wear the dent where his handlebar hit the fender as a reminder to expect the unexpected, in whatever form it appears.
Labor Day has just ushered out the 2016 version of the "100 Deadliest Days." The out-and-about, often carefree days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are when more fatal car crashes, drownings and other mishaps occur than at any other time of year.
Experts theorize summer is more deadly due to a combination of factors, from more people out enjoying recreation to fewer kids in school, more road trips, more late night adventures, more daylight that encourages those later adventures, more camping, more off-roading, more swimming, more bicycling, more motorcycle riding, more roller-blading and skateboarding, more home improvement projects, more barbecues and more fireworks, among other things.
After Labor Day, it's easy to figure that danger has passed. But it's not necessarily true.
Our friends and relatives in always-warm areas carry many "deadly days" risks with them year-round. Those of us who have chosen to live in four-season parts of the country know winter brings a different set of risks, not least of which are slick roads and sometimes appalling cold. We've seen collapsed roofs and downed trees and know that slipping can be really dangerous.
So, though, can changing a light bulb in the bathroom if things go wrong. Little children face grave danger from an innocuous bookshelf in the corner or the oversized older television set that looks stable enough for a child to hang onto, with sometimes disastrous results. Skiing, riding in a vehicle as passenger or driver, snowboarding, staying out too long in the cold and so many other things can all place one in direst jeopardy.
There's not much one can do about a random lightning strike, though there's plenty to be done if you're out in a lightning storm. The trick is knowing what to do — and what not to do when a situation has forseeable risks, even unlikely ones.
I believe in living joyfully and even taking some chances. But I also believe in doing what I can to protect myself and others from situations that can quickly go very wrong. Nowhere is our inter-connectedness more apparent than when it comes to caring for each other. That doesn't mean avoiding driving or swimming or snowboarding or whatever. It means paying attention and having the gear that's appropriate and thinking ahead. It's something my dad taught me and I hope I taught my kids.
It also means understanding we are fragile and fallible and must pay attention to ourselves and others, instead of cruising along on the notion that I am, for instance, an excellent and attentive driver. Who once watched a man go tumbling over the front of my vehicle.
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