In the Midwest, the winter hesitantly turns to Spring, which batts an eye and turns into Summer. We breathe a collective sigh of relief when we reach our first full weeks of warm (ish) weather without snow. No more winter jackets and scrapping off our car while it warms up. Shedding the layers of winter feels like freedom. This is no truer elsewhere than on the road. Winter means poor driving conditions, sometimes out of nowhere. Around here, we’ve all had a moment where we had a death grip on the steering wheel, traveling 30 miles per hour on the highway, trying to avoid fish tailing. Some of us have even had accidents in this weather.
In the summer, we don’t have to worry about such driving conditions. It feels safer. Surprisingly, though, more accidents actually happen in the summer than in the winter. Why do we suppose that is? It all comes down to people; more people on the road, doing dumb and dangerous stuff. Texting and driving, following too closely, not looking before they merge.
All accidents are caused, and from a big picture, they’re all caused by the same thing: people. It’s not the snow’s fault that you spun out and rear-ended someone in front of you. It’s not the deer’s fault that you didn’t see it before it leapt out into your path. And, parked cars never have accidents. An accident takes people.
It can be difficult to acknowledge this fact. After all, it might be easier to blame the dangerous conditions. But people take risks, and when they do, they cause accidents. This sounds like we’re pointing fingers, but really, it’s accountability. If accidents are caused, and they’re caused by people’s bad behaviors, then accidents can be prevented. It’s not about blame, it’s about reducing bad behaviors and making people safer.
The next time you’re behind the wheel, check yourself and think about what you’re doing. Each one of us has countless micro behaviors that we do every day. We call these behavior patterns. A lot of our behavior patterns are good, productive, and safe. For example, almost everyone in the US buckles up before they even start the car. But I’m willing to bet that everyone reading this article has plenty of unsafe behavior patterns while behind the wheel, maybe even more than good.
Unsafe behavior patterns, if they go unchecked, will always lead to an accident. But, you can become safer simply by recognizing that accidents are caused by people. Every time behind the wheel is a chance to make you and others around you safer. Remember to drive carefully not just in bad weather, but year round.