By Chaplain Lt. Col. David BowermanDecember 8, 2015
On Dec. 27, 2014, a 41-year-old husband and father of two was riding his bicycle during daylight hours in Baltimore in a marked bike lane, when he was struck by a car and killed. Police charged a local clergywoman -- a bishop who presided over a large denomination, with driving under the influence of alcohol, texting while driving, as well as leaving the scene of an accident - although she later returned.
Certainly, the bishop did not set out that day to kill a man, ruin her career and damage the reputation of her church. However, as the old adage goes, you don't plan to fail; you fail to plan. The events of that day were set into motion long before she placed the key into the car's ignition switch.
Thanks to public safety campaigns and messaging by groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, there is an increased awareness of the dangers associated with driving under the influence and driving while intoxicated. It is not unusual to have a designated driver--one who agrees to remain sober during a night out and agrees to safely transport others who are not. Yet, the problem still exists. For example, people drinking at home may run out of alcohol. The logical answer is perhaps to call it a night. They may or may not be drunk but alcohol and other drugs impair good judgment, so they may be inclined to drive to the store and buy more. This could put them and anyone nearby at risk of being involved in an alcohol-related incident. You do not have to be drunk to be a menace on the road.
Distracted drivers are also menaces on the road. Have you ever been behind a car that randomly drifted from one traffic lane to another or cruised at inconsistent speeds? When you have the opportunity to pass, what do you see? The driver is often talking on the phone or looking at the screen. Many people feel that texting while driving is not a problem for them. Maybe they have been driving for years or are traveling on familiar roads. These drivers may feel that distracted driving is an issue for young people or inexperienced drivers. However, what all drivers need to do is hang up the phone, or use a hands-free device if legal, and drive.
Whether drivers around you are drunk, impaired or distracted, please practice attentive driving. As many parents tell their young beginner drivers, "You can be the best driver in the world but what you can't control are the other drivers around you." People run stop signs and traffic lights. You have to anticipate trouble while driving. Children and animals may dart out into the street unexpectedly. Keep your eyes on the road. Check your mirrors and blind spots. Do not let your car's technology or entertainment become a distraction. Car stereos and even the Global Positioning System, while enhancing the driving experience, can be a distraction that takes your attention from the road and surroundings. This concern goes beyond the thrill of our gadgets. Have you ever passed a car on the interstate where the driver had a book spread open on the steering wheel? Believe it or not, incidences like this happen.
What happened on that December day in Baltimore was a tragedy. A life was lost and lives were ruined. The bishop should have known better. As a leader in the community, she should be setting an example. However, we are all human and subject to temptation, distraction and poor judgment at times. We don't plan to fail; we fail to plan.
For more information on safe driving, visit the Army's Safety Center homepage https://safety.army.mil where you will find resources on topics such as safe driving and travel risk planning.