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In the moment before impact, D.K. Mullarky looked out the driver's side window of his tiny sports car and saw the right front headlight of an out of control SUV, mere inches away. The initial impact drove Mullarky's car down an embankment, where it slammed into a stand of trees. The collision's aftermath left Mullarky with a totaled vehicle and a broken body. Happy to be a survivor, Mullarky relies on his experience behind the wheel as a driver-and a victim-as he shares his humorous and informative guide on how ...
In the moment before impact, D.K. Mullarky looked out the driver's side window of his tiny sports car and saw the right front headlight of an out of control SUV, mere inches away. The initial impact drove Mullarky's car down an embankment, where it slammed into a stand of trees. The collision's aftermath left Mullarky with a totaled vehicle and a broken body. Happy to be a survivor, Mullarky relies on his experience behind the wheel as a driver-and a victim-as he shares his humorous and informative guide on how to prevent idiots on the road from making other drivers a statistic.
With thousands of Americans losing their lives in preventable, non-alcohol related collisions and crashes every year, one cannot help wonder why drivers are still operating their vehicles while being distracted by drinks, food, conversations, and, worse yet, cell phones. With a wry sense of humor, Mullarky wonders why drivers
• act like their signals are made of acid, ready to melt their fingers if they use them;
• tempt fate and speed on the road;
• drift into other lanes;
• ogle crashes and traffic collisions; and
• refuse to yield the right-of-way to emergency vehicles.
Get on the Bus shares practical advice that can encourage anyone to revisit their own driving habits while it reminds that being self-focused on the road is a disaster just waiting to happen.
Are you a good driver? Most will answer yes to that question. Everyone would rather be known as a good driver than a bad driver. As a rule, humankind doesn't like being told, You're not doing that right. But when it comes to driving, a tiny bit of humility, the ability to admit you may not be as good a driver as you want to believe, may save someone's life.
I know what you're thinking: Who is this guy to give advice or instruction on driving? Why should I care about anything he says? Is he a driver's education teacher, a cop, a race-car driver, or a professional hauler? Heck, is he even a teacher? Well, I'm none of those things. The truth is, I've been given so many labels by so many people over the years that I've lost track. However, the label I wear proudly, which I hope will give you pause to consider what I've written, is survivor.
In early December of 2003, I had this great little car: a 2001 Hyundai Tiburon. A two-door, five-speed, with electric everything, and what my wife and I called a "two-grocery-bag backseat." It was a great value for the price, and, most important, it was super fun to drive. My wife told me, "Okay. You can buy it. But, first ticket you get, I'm driving it!" Like I said, fun to drive.
On the sixth of the month, that little car and I had to part ways, and, unfortunately, it wasn't painless for either of us. As I neared a bend in the road, a Nissan Pathfinder came around the bend with its rear end in my lane. In a split second, the driver of the Pathfinder overcorrected, and the vehicle spun toward me, out of control. As soon as the grille was pointed directly at me, the vehicle somehow found purchase on the slick road and leapt at me. It hit my driver's door at about 60 mph.
In the instant before impact, as I was staring at the right headlight of the Pathfinder just outside my driver's side window, I thought, Aw, crap, or a word very similar in length and meaning.
The initial impact drove my car off the road, down an embankment, and into a stand of trees.
The car came to a fairly sudden stop when it hit the trees at the bottom of the hill. I was slammed forward into the steering wheel. Unfortunately, enough time had passed between the impacts, so the airbags had already deflated. After my face rebounded from the steering wheel, I shook my head to clear the cobwebs and asked aloud, "Did that really just happen?" I then spit a mouthful of blood onto the passenger seat and replied to my own question, "I guess so ... I'm gonna have to clean that up." I looked around the car and finished my mini-dialogue with, "I'll never have to touch this car again."
The car was a wreck (pun fully intended). The car was so badly mangled that two weeks after the wreck, when the insurance adjustor first saw it, he assumed I was dead. His first words to my wife over the phone were an apology "for bothering you at this time of loss." I was lying a few feet away in a hospital bed—in our living room.
After a thorough inspection of the interior of the car, and deciding that it was a goner, I started wondering whether I was going to follow suit. I knew I was injured, but I didn't feel all that bad—considering. My only complaint at that point (other than the fact that my car had been destroyed) was that my mouth kept filling up with blood. When I looked in the mirror, I could see why. So much for all the money my mom had spent on my childhood braces. Sorry, Mom.
The paramedics arrived. Upon seeing my car, they were stunned to learn I was not only alive but awake and coherent. A short conference later, they extricated me from the remains of my ride. As the doors of the ambulance closed, the EMT in back with me leaned over and told me I was going to be okay.
I reached up to remove the oxygen mask and replied, "I know," and replaced the mask. Then, I promptly passed out.
A string of questions were my next conscious memories: "What the hell did I do last night? Why do my teeth feel funny? Why does my head hurt so much? And, most importantly, why is it so damn bright in here?" I thought them before I even opened my eyes. When I finally saw the laden IV tree above me, I remembered the wreck and realized it had been worse than I'd thought.
Because the driver's door had been folded in on me, I had suffered a half dozen broken ribs on my left side, a shattered left hip, a collapsed left lung, and a ruptured spleen, which was removed. My ruptured diaphragm required two surgeries, one then and one eighteen months later; it is now about a third Gortex. During the secondary impact of hitting the trees, seven teeth were broken when I bit through my lip into the steering wheel. Again, Mom, I'm sorry.
To the amazement of many, including my doctors, ten days after being admitted to the Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake, New York, I was heading home.
I would still spend two more months sleeping in a hospital bed in our living room while I rehabbed, but I was out of the hospital—the hospital in which the person who hit me spent no time.
Don't get me wrong, I'm glad the other driver was not seriously injured, or worse. In a perverse way, I'm glad that my injuries were the worst suffered. As my mother would be happy to tell you, I almost made a career of being injured as a kid, so I can take it. That being said, I do wish the whole thing had never happened. Who wouldn't, right?
I spent the remainder of December and all of January lying in that hospital bed. I had to relearn how to walk. It was surreal. I'd never spent that much time confined to two rooms—three, if you include the half bathroom. Nor do I think I've ever spent that much time: a.) Not going outside; b.) Not doing something productive; c.) Reading, sleeping, and/ or watching television/playing XBox; d.) Being bored out of my skull; or e.) All of the above. Pick one.
In those two months, I nearly wore a path through the linoleum in our kitchen and the carpet in our living room: eighteen baby steps one way, eighteen baby steps back. When I wasn't lying in that bed, reading, watching movies, or playing Halo, I was doing my laps. Eventually, I got cocky. When my wife wasn't around, I started doing my laps without the crutches—before I had the doctor's okay to do so. I know. I'm a rebel.
All these years later, having lived since then missing some parts I was born with and having new, man-made pieces in some of their places, I find the thing I miss most ... is that car. Like I said, it was fun to drive!
The really sad part though is that all of this could have been avoided.
The driver who hit me was cited for "Faulty Equipment" and "Excessive Speed," because the vehicle was doing about 60 mph when control was lost. Oh, yeah! And the Pathfinder had four bald tires on it— not ideal for snowy conditions!
I've yet to cause a collision, and I've only been involved in the one that nearly took my life. However, I have done quite a bit of driving. Not as much as some, I'm sure. But I'm also sure I've driven more miles than others.
It's not just the vacation and travel mileage or the pleasure driving I have logged over the years that make me the person to write this book. In fact, there are three main reasons why I am the perfect person to write this book and why you should continue reading it.
First, at multiple points in my life, I drove as a requirement of my job without a single hiccup. I've driven just about everything on the road and a number of things that are not. I've driven cars, vans, trucks, motorcycles; you name it. I've delivered grain to farms, and I've shuttled people to and from airport parking. And not a scratch or ding resulted from any of those.
Second, I have always driven (or "ridden," as I do spend a lot of time on two wheels) so as to avoid causing a collision or any undue stress to my fellow motorists. In other words, I've always driven in a way some would call defensive—and others, paranoid. Whichever word you choose for it, I've always kept two thoughts in mind:
1. Avoid a crash by thinking ahead. In other words, when I'm driving, I catalog everything on the road, ahead of and behind me. Then, I run possible scenarios as to what those folks might do, and I make my plans for avoiding any dangers those vehicles might create.
2. Be diligent; drive with care and consideration. Not only do I wish to protect my car, I really don't want to wreck someone else's either. It's not the monetary angle that prompts me to that attitude when I drive; it's the need to not cause someone to go through anything like what I did. Plus, I like to treat other drivers as I would like to be treated: I don't tailgate. I let people into the line of traffic close to 99 percent of the time (I really don't like those folks that ignore the Merge Left or Merge Right signs and speed up to where the lane is completely closed and then try to jump into traffic. Those self-centered folks annoy me, and I make them wait). The way I see it, we all have to share the roadways. If we're nice to each other while doing so, the daily commute won't be such a pain in the rear.
Lastly, I completely understand the responsibility inherent in the operation of a motor vehicle. I'm well aware, every time I start my car, that I could conceivably kill someone on the road that day. Just as I'm acutely aware that I'm risking my life every time I get on my motorcycle. I know my vehicle could very well be the end of someone else's life, and I refuse to be the person who causes another human to become a statistic.
I felt I needed to write this book for those reasons—and one other. I understand that people don't like to be criticized. Heck, unless a person is a masochist, I don't think anyone likes to be critiqued. Sure, people may put up with it. And some may appreciate it. But I don't think anyone really likes it. That being said, people do tend to respond better to criticism or advice when it is couched in humor.
The author of one of my reference materials put it this way: "Since most of us have never been involved in a major accident, it is difficult to realize that such a thing could happen to us" (Halsey 1964, pg. 14). You will note I do not use the word accident, unless I'm quoting another author. That's because I believe that while there are times when traffic collisions or crashes truly are accidents, for the most part, they are not.
Collisions or crashes are the sum totals of many events, circumstances, and decisions. Most of the time crashes don't just happen. One or more of the drivers involved either did something he shouldn't have or failed to do something that should have been done. As stated by Graham Hole, another author whose work I reviewed, "The vast majority of road accidents can be attributed to human error: very few occur as a result of mechanical failure" (Hole 2007, pg. 85).
After all, the vehicles we drive today are nowhere near as sophisticated as the ones from Will Smith's movie I, Robot and nowhere near as smart as Herbie from The Love Bug or the animated rides in Cars. In other words, cars don't crash unless there's a human behind the wheel.
The great majority of the explanations given for collisions are only excuses and poor excuses at that. "One of the most obvious ultimate causes of highway deaths is that drivers fail to heed the rules of the road" (Weiers 1968, pg. 37). That tells us that most collisions can be avoided if people are safety conscious and considerate when they are behind the wheel.
If drivers intuitively anticipate problems that might arise while they drive, steps can be taken to avoid collisions. Whether it is driving slower in bad weather, not tailgating, proper signaling, anticipating stopped traffic, or preparing to brake when children or animals are present, a little forethought goes a long way. "Drivers incur risk if they fail to detect a hazard; underestimate the danger it represents; or overestimate their ability to deal with it" (Hole 2007, pg. 91).
After I had recovered from my crash, I found I was hyperaware of other motorists' driving habits and dismayed by many of them. "Most people have the capability to become good drivers, but for some reason or another they just don't take much pride in being able to handle their car in safe and competent manner" (Weiers 1968, pg. 24).
It shocks me how true those words seem to be.
I'm sure I'd noticed how badly some people drove before I was wrecked, but I'd never been personally affected by it, so I just ignored it with a dismissive shake of my head. After the wreck, I realized the terrible driving I was witnessing could easily kill another motorist or passenger, or worse yet, it could finish the job on me. "Too frequently the innocent are the victims of the traffic violator and the inattentive or inefficient driver" (New York University 1976, pg. 301). Well, I don't know about you, but I've tried the "victim" bit, and I'd really rather not go that route again, thank you very much.
So I did some research. I went to the library at Virginia Tech and borrowed what few driving books I could locate there. I found nothing useful at the local municipal library. Then, I had very nice employees from Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million perform internet searches for me on the same topic. Do you know what I found? I found that the only books written about driving fell into three categories:
1. Driver's Education books aimed at teenagers who were currently trying to get their licenses.
2. Professional studies regarding collisions and the driving habits that caused them.
3. Older books, from the 1970s and earlier, also designed for the novice driver.
I must admit the older books were quite entertaining. Seeing the photos of folks in '60s and '70s haircuts and clothing made it difficult for me to do my research without giggling.
In June 2007, the Vatican issued its Drivers' Ten Commandments, but it seems no one else has wanted to tackle the sticky subject of remedial driving with adult drivers. Sure, I agree that young, beginner, or novice drivers have a lot to learn, but I propose that adult drivers do, too. "As a driver you must be certain that you are in full control of the car at all times" (New York University 1976, pg. 74). And that doesn't change regardless how experienced a driver you are. The laws and rules of the road change, and cars become more powerful and complex, but people assume that what they learned years ago in mom's banana-yellow Volkswagen Karmann Ghia still stands true.
Newer cars have higher horsepower than those of twenty years ago, and they are now loaded with all sorts of gadgets and gizmos that no one would have dreamt about thirty years ago. Do you know every feature of your vehicle? Do you know how they all work? If you answered yes to both of those questions, you should be proud: you're ahead of the curve.
Part of the problem is that each state decides how to legislate on a particular item having to do with cars and driving. For instance, in New York state, if you are using your windshield wipers you must have your headlights on. It's the law. Of course, I've always wondered whether a driver must turn the headlights on and off, on and off, if he's using the intermittent wipers. But I digress.
Some motorists have never learned the proper, legal, considerate, and safe way to drive. They learned just enough to pass the test and get a license. Others have forgott en. Still others simply do not care. Those are not good reasons for poor driving habits. And they should be unacceptable excuses to anyone. Ronald Weiers hit the nail on the head when he wrote, "Mr. American motorist has no real desire to drive well, he is often unable to drive skillfully, and most important, he oft en doesn't realize that he doesn't know how to drive" (Weiers 1968, pg. 23).
Mr. Weiers wrote something else with which I completely agree, "If driver examinations really indicated the applicant's ability to drive safely under typical highway conditions, most of today's so-called drivers would be right where they belong—sitting in the back of the bus" (Weiers 1968, pg. 80). I believe that those people who cannot or simply refuse to drive considerately, conscientiously, and safely should do everyone else on the road a favor: Park the car and get on the bus! The roads would be much safer and more pleasurable for the rest of us to travel if the arrogant, ignorant, and unsafe drivers were safely riding as passengers on buses rather than operating motor vehicles.
Make no mistake, arrogance plays a large role in dangerous driving behavior. It is easy to see why many foreigners see Americans as an arrogant people. One only needs to watch how many Americans drive. Some drive as if they are the only person on the road and others as if the road belongs only to them while they grudgingly let the rest of us use it.
That same arrogance can be seen at the grocery store. Stop snickering; I'm being serious. People routinely push their carts out of aisles without looking to see who or what they will hit. Or, when they want to examine something, they leave their carts in the middle of the aisle, blocking anyone else from passing by.
I figure the way a person pushes a shopping cart is a good indicator of how he drives. If the guy pushes and parks his shopping cart like an arrogant idiot, I don't want to be anywhere near him on the road; he probably drives his car in much the same manner. Luckily, whenever someone nearly wipes me out with a shopping cart in a grocery store, I have the opportunity to say (and usually do), "I hope you don't drive your car that poorly, because if you do, you're going to kill someone."
When you're driving, you're responsible not only for your own wellbeing, but for the well-being of every other motorist and passenger on the road at that time. You cannot afford to be arrogant or inconsiderate when you are behind the wheel. So, because I knew some would need a gentle, wiseass reminder that their actions behind the wheel have consequences to others, I took it upon myself to write this book.
Excerpted from Get on the Bus! by D. K. Mullarky Copyright © 2011-2012 by D.K. Mullarky. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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