Thursday, June 11, 2015

Driving the future

I can't say it with certainty, but I'm pretty sure that in the program of instruction for every high school in the land, there is an assembly or two in which the student body is herded into the auditorium to hear a beefy traffic cop spin tales and show films and pictures of gory accidents he or she has seen in a 27-yr career.

And the movies they see in Driver's Education are still there, I suppose.  I remember one with Desi Arnaz narrating, voicing over the blood and carnage and mangled metal and bodies with somber warnings about the consequences of drunk driving or speeding.

And then it happens every spring.  It happened not that far from us last Friday night, in fact.  Two young men, just graduated from Perry Hall High School, were in a car that left the roadway and struck a tree.  The passenger died at once; the driver, on Sunday.

For all I know, there were driving at 30 mph and a deer ran out in front of them.  Does it really matter how they died?  What's so awful is that they did. All the guessing and figuring what happened is in full gear now, and the families are making funeral plans instead of planning to take the youths to college, and two lives that should only have been just beginning are over for good.

I've been spending some time at my old high school, Towson High, mentoring as a volunteer, and I can't say that today's kids are that much different than how we were back in the olden days.  When they find out I'm an alumnus of the school, they ask when I was graduated, and when they hear "1969" I see the calculators going off in their heads, and the mental jotto subtracting 1969 from 2015, and they see before them a true relic of the Johnson/Nixon days, and they peer at me as if I were a museum display from a traveling exhibit called "The Civil War: America Divided Against Itself." 

Listen, if some geezer from the class of 1923 had shown up there in 1969, I would have looked at him like a rusting artifact, too. The students of 2015 are kind and cool and they don't seem nearly as nervous as we were.  For all their sophistication and online access and familiarity with technology that we only dreamed of, they're still kids, and kids are going to make mistakes. 

But I digress, and it's obvious that it's a lot more fun to ruminate on the good old days than to figure way to tell people their days might come to a sudden end if they don't start being careful. These kids today have heard a million times how dangerous life is, and how important safe driving can be.  And yet...

If all the best and the brightest in the fields of law enforcement, automotive technology and education haven't found a way to remind kids that driving is serious business, who will?

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