A Close Call Close to Work ~ Part 1

They say your life passes before your eyes just before you die.  I don’t know if that’s true but a close call on May 27 made me realize I‘m not eager to find out.

Walking back from lunch, I stopped at a 3 way intersection about a block from KMM.  There are 3 stop signs and a speed limit of 25 MPH.  Signage reminds drivers to stop for pedestrians who are crossing the one way street.  On this bright, sunny day, there were no vehicles in the intersection and none approaching. I looked left then right, and feeling it was  safe, I stepped off of the curb and began to cross.

Suddenly, from the corner of my eye, I noticed a SUV barreling toward me.  Speeding closer and closer, the vehicle showed no signs of slowing down let alone stopping.  It was going to hit me. With seconds to spare, I rushed back to the sidewalk. I focused my eyes on the driver, a well-dressed 60-ish man.  A woman was in the passenger seat.  The couple appeared to be arguing and looking at each other, not the street.

In the panic stricken moments that followed, I realized I was lucky to be alive, but was too stunned to scream, “you almost killed me!”  Bill Neary, my colleague, witnessed the incident, and did the yelling for me. But, it didn’t matter.  The SUV was long gone and the driver totally unaware of the near miss.

Back in my office, I sat silently, taking deep breaths, and replaying the entire incident in my mind.  I asked myself, “how did this happen?”

As a transportation specialist involved with traffic safety issues, I mentally reviewed the 3 Es of traffic management — Engineering, Enforcement and Education.  The engineering and enforcement aspects including road design, pavement markings, speed limit and stop signs to control traffic were all present.  The missing element was education.

Anyone who sits behind the wheel must respect the rules of the road and understand the risks and dangers of driving.  Drivers must stay ALERT and pay attention to roadway conditions, speed limits and traffic signs. A driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or who is experiencing rage, anger, or other distractions should not drive until he or she is back to normal, especially in a downtown setting with many pedestrians walking around during the lunch hour.

This incident made me I realize that I am not only responsible for my own behavior and safety but, I must also be mindful of the improper driving behaviors of others. It reminded me that life is so unpredictable and that we should never take it for granted.  You never know if you can go back home.pedSlide1

Leave Handicapped Parking Spaces for Those with Handicaps

handicap parking van acccessibleIn the last year of her life, my Mom was slowed by age and illness.  Mobility issues forced her to use a walker to get around.  Mom traded in her driver’s licenses for a Handicapped placard which she could transfer to any vehicle in which she was a passenger.  She knew where the handicapped spaces were located at the places she frequented.  It irked her to discover vehicles without special placards or license plates parked in them.    She didn’t like to be “dropped off” while her companion hunted for a space. It was a major production which she found embarrassing. Get out of the car, retrieve the walker from the backseat, open it up, help Mom out of the car, get her situated, and wait to make sure she entered the establishment without incident.   Sometimes, when she saw an able-bodied person saunter to the vehicle he or she parked in a handicapped spot, Mom speak up,

“You shouldn’t be parking there. This is for handicapped people.”

“I was only running in for a minute,” the driver replied.

“Be thankful, you can run,” was her sharp retort.

In NJ, over 50,000 license plates and 460,000 placards have been issued to persons with certain handicaps. A list of the criteria for these permits and an application may be found at www.state.nj.us/mvc/Vehicle/handicapped_qualifications.htm.

Those who park in handicapped spaces without a license plate or placard are subject to fines and repeat offenders may be required to serve 90 days community service.  The NJ Legislature is considering a bill that cracks down on motorists who unlawfully use a temporary or permanent handicapped parking placard.  If Assemblymen Reed Gusciora, John Burzichelli, and Troy Singleton have their way, violators would face fines of up to $500.

It’s too bad we need this law.  Handicapped spaces are the ultimate “preferred” parking, located conveniently near the entrance to the market, library, restaurant, or movies.  But, my Mom would have so “preferred” to walk across a parking lot with a sprightly, confident gait.  She would have preferred not to need a walker.  But since she did, she preferred being able to park in a handicapped space.

 

~RAK

Having “the Talk.” Handing over the Keys.

The other day, I was on the phone with my friend Anna when she screamed, “Stop, Jim, stop!  There’s a stop sign!  Phew! That was close.” 

She was a passenger in the car with her 80 something husband who refuses to relinquish the car keys.  Most of the time, she cajoles him into letting her drive but sometimes, especially for trips around town, Jim insists on getting behind the wheel.

Anna knows Jim should not be driving.  She’s tried hiding the car keys.  He made a spare set which he hides from her.  She’s thought of disabling his car.  But, Jim is pretty handy and he’d have it up and running in no time.  She has suggested less stressful routes.  But, Jim knows how to get “there” and doesn’t want to go a “longer” way.

What Anna hasn’t done is talk to Jim.  Her attempts to start a conversation have been rebuffed.  He doesn’t want to discuss it and she doesn’t want to start an argument.  She knows that being dependent on others to get where he wants to go would be devastating.  For Anna and Jim and other husbands and wives and parents and children, it’s hard to have “the talk.”

MH900442259Healthguide.org, a healthy aging help center, helps readers figure out when the time for “the talk” is right.  Diminished strength, coordination, and flexibility, problems with vision and hearing, reduced range of motion, and forgetfulness may be signs that driving should be curtailed.  If a driver has a few “close calls” like hitting the mailbox or begins receiving tickets or citations, or is driving erratically – too fast, no signals, sudden lane changes, it’s time.

It’s important to cover all the bases first.  If hearing or vision is a problem, will a hearing aid or new glasses help?  Can the manual transmission vehicle be replaced with one with an automatic transmission, power steering, and power brakes?  Are there slower roads?  Can driving be done only in daylight?  Is a senior driver refresher course available?  Sometimes, solutions like these can extend a person’s driving time.

But, if adjustments can’t be made, it is time for “the talk.”  The conversation should be respectful and helpful.  Emphasize safety, not only of the driver but of others on the road.  If possible identify options – public transit, senior shuttles, taxis, ridesharing or family, friends, and neighbors who would be willing to help out with transportation needs.

Anna is working up to “the talk.”  She’s spoken to Jim’s doctor and is trying to find a professional who can evaluate Jim’s driving behavior.  She’s going to bring in family members to reassure Jim of their support.  They all love Jim and want him to stay active and involved.  They just don’t want him driving.

~RAK