As readers of this column know, I absolutely detest having to travel on Interstate 70. I think of the Interstate Highway System as a means of population control. I shudder when I even think about the number and kinds of injuries and deaths caused by the war constantly waged between 18-wheelers and small sedans delivering families from one location to another. I don't know what could be done to halt the current carnage on the nation's highways.
I was involved in an incident last week that brought the situation to mind again. It was the kind of thing that happens all the time during deer season. Most of us instinctively try to dodge objects in the lane in which we are driving. It takes a lot of guts to drive headlong into the deer, or whatever object is in our way. Our natural instincts are to try to avoid a collision. But we read over and over, every year the number of times people wind up injured from swerving off the highway, plowing into another car, or getting rammed into, in an effort to avoid hurting the deer.
Fortunately, no animal was involved in our incident. A huge wheel had been left in the middle of our lane. To her credit, my friend, observing that cars were traveling all around us took a chance and drove straight into the wheel. No one was therefore injured, but the front end of her new car sustained $1,500 worth of damage. While we remained intact we worried about the other drivers who would have to face the same situation. Seeking to find a solution to this dilemma, I called the Missouri State Highway Patrol Office for advice. They gave me their emergency assistance number of *55 in case I encountered such a situation again.
As grateful as I was for this information, in the back of my head I knew there are not enough emergency telephone numbers or enough Highway Patrol Officers in the world to make us safe, traveling on these highways. There are entirely too many opportunities for bad things to happen where human beings are involved. Are we lucky not to have more accidents happen? No, I don't call that luck, I call that undeserved consequences for our ridiculous belief in our own immortality and our failure to use our technological superiority to our best advantage.
I don't kid myself that anyone will run out and begin a mass transit system. I just know that it is irresponsible for people like me when we see dangers that could be disarmed, not to advocate for disarming. Will anyone listen? Probably not, but that isn't the point is it? It's out there and someday, somebody will listen and act.
We Missourians are proud to be in the Show-Me State. I believe when we have seen enough, spent enough and suffered enough we will come to the conclusion that freight and passengers do not make good traveling companions. The railroads found that out, but history has a way of repeating itself. And because we do not learn from history we must waste time discarding ideas and rescuing them in every generation. It seems to be the nature of the beast. I'm probably in the minority on this issue, because we are said to be in love with our cars and will not give them up under any circumstances. But, every year more teenagers reach the driving age and more cars are on the road. I think at some time we are going to reach the point where it is no longer reasonable for us to continue the practice of each individual using his or her own transportation to get from place to place.
Also, the cost of maintaining our highways and having to continually widen them year after year takes a lot of taxpayer dollars. Transporting all this freight on the roads means that they are in constant need of repair. When these heavy-duty trucks have to use city streets to deliver their goods, small towns and cities are forced to pay for repairing their streets on an annual basis.
Although we Americans constantly bemoan our dependence on foreign oil we nevertheless insist on driving of our own cars near and far instead of designing a system of transportation that would be less costly and more energy efficient.
In any case, if your family is traveling this holiday season please drive safely, and when the New Year rolls around ask yourself if this is really the best way to go? And by all means have a joyous, wonderful and blessed Christmas from my house to yours.
You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.