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Dr. Shaggy shares from the deepest recesses of his heart (kind of) and humor resides within. 

"Why I Should Improve My Driving, and The Things I Can Do To Improve My Driving" by Dr. Shaggy

This is a paper that I was required to write as a substitute for a traffic fine. I was required to write and submit it to the Palm Beach County Court House, and on approval, points and fine would both be withheld. Both were.

It occurs to me as I read the first half of this title, "Why I Should Improve My Driving..." that the answer is overly obvious. On deeper consideration of the meaning of the question, I comprehend a simple truth: I take the ability and privilege of driving for granted. I rarely take a second thought about what it means to handle a vehicle, and the complementary traffic laws, responsibly. As I muse over my thoughts, I envision the people on the roadways. Who are all these people? I find that, in addition to myself, I share the road with countless human souls. These are souls of children on their way to school, souls of men on their way to work; their wives at home, taking for granted that they will return at the end of the day. But everyone does not return home at the end of the day. Ask the Mothers Against Drunk Driving how many people do not return home at the end of their days. Accidents are just that, accidents. But "how many accidents are preventable accidents?," I ask myself. I wonder how many children could be spared the experience of losing a parent, or how many parents, after having wrestled with the task of raising a child to maturity successfully, lose that object of their pride and accomplishment? How many deaths could be prevented if everyone, including me, would only take the time to pay that little extra bit of attention and attempt to behave more defensively on the road? I find that a gross injustice exists when I look introspectively and find that I am among those who are responsible for failing to do their best. Every time I get behind the wheel and, consciously or unconsciously, decide to break any of even the simplest traffic laws, I become responsible for the consequences of every transgression, every casualty, every angry encounter that occurs on our roadways. By my neglect of safety and responsibility, I condone all the misconduct of all the traffic offenders everywhere. If breaking a law is wrong for one person, then it is wrong for everyone, and consequently if it is wrong for everyone then one person can never be favored or given special treatment.

This leads me to evaluate what things I can do to improve my driving. I am sure that there are many things I can do. Some of them are realistic and attainable and some of them are not. The first thing I will do is to analyze my present driving habits. I will try to understand my particular strengths and weaknesses. Many, many possibilities surface as I finally confront my faults. I find that I sometimes exceed the speed limit. I do not consistently wear my seat belt. I, in particular, did drive the wrong way down a one-way street. This, by the way, was in downtown West Palm Beach. My wife and I had decided to take our two children, Erik; age five, and Sarah; age three, to the fountains to play. After having dropped off my wife and children, I went to try to find a place to park. I looked and looked, but could not find an appropriate spot available. I drove up and down several streets, being unfamiliar with the area, and could not find any place to park. By now I was getting further and further from my family. I decided to try to return and see if I could possibly find a parking area closer to the fountains. That was when I made the fatal mistake. I turned the wrong way down a one-way street (I am not sure of the name of the street) and encountered an officer on a motorcycle. I was, at first, relieved to see him, because I had hoped to ask him for help. Then the gravity of the situation became apparent as he approached me. He looked angry. I shuddered to understand what I had done wrong. The officer informed me that I was headed the wrong way on a one-way street.

I completed the interaction with the officer, called my wife and children to the car, and we went home. But I digress. I feel it is important to try to be more aware of what is happening around me. I need to be more sensitive to the actions of others so that I am able to respond appropriately. If I should see, for example, someone in front of me who cuts me off, I need to pull back and allow him to have his own space. It is not worth risking myself or my family over someone else who is dangerous. Also, I need to be more attentive to my own shortcomings. Those times when I am aware that I am speeding, I need to consciously force myself to slow down. When I am on the highway I will travel in the far right lane to discipline myself to drive slower. Those times when I am driving late at night or during peak rainy seasons I can use the cruise control and set it on a relatively slower speed setting. On holidays, when returning home late at night, I can try to be more aware of the fact that there are people on the road who may have been drinking (I, myself do not drink). If I should see someone weaving from lane to lane I can choose an alternate route home rather than risk trying to pass them. I can also identify particularly dangerous areas in town where I frequently drive. I can avoid those areas that are most congested during peak traffic hours.

I have noticed that where I live there are many children who play in the street. They play basketball and other games because there is a basketball hoop on one of the light poles. I often feel that these children are in danger from those who are not familiar with the area. I could keep a closer watch on the events happening in my own neighborhood. Perhaps I will try harder to converse more often with my neighbors. I can try to create a safety network of residents who are aware of, and care about, what happens on our roads. Often I have seen a great deal of litter on our street also. It seems to me that this kind of thing, although a passive offense, can still be quite dangerous. I am always careful not to litter and often find myself cleaning up glass and broken objects from the street. Once an ice cream truck happened to be driving down our street, (he drives by every day because the children love ice cream) and as he passed directly in front of our home I heard a loud bang. I feared it was a gunshot, but it was not, thankfully. The ice cream truck had run over a piece of glass and blown out a tire. It scared the children so badly that I do not think any of them bought any ice cream that day. I felt bad for him because I felt like he might have blamed me for having left the broken glass out there. I went to help him, but he had no spare tire and we were unable to replace the flat tire.

**Check out Dr. Shaggy's web site, Ask Dr. Shaggy!**

 

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