There will always be speeders, but you don't have to be one

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What a scary situation, to be pushing the brake to the floor yet knowing that you will not be able to stop in time.

If we drive long enough, we will most likely experience that feeling, whether we just tap the bumper of the car in front of us or crash violently into something unexpected.

We all know that, as we drive faster, the stopping distance increases, and it becomes more difficult to avoid obstacles that come into our lane. However, according to a 2002 study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Commission, one in three men believe it is OK to exceed the speed limit by 10 mph.

A couple weeks ago, a deer was struck and killed by a car at Isaacs and Link across from Kmart, so we never know where we might encounter something in our lane of travel that requires us to take immediate evasive action or make an emergency stop.

Being a defensive driver is the number one way to reduce our chances of being involved in a traffic collision.

Unfortunately, having our mind set on our need to rush around town in order to get to our destinations quickly sets us up for being much more likely to be involved in a traffic collision.

How many times do we find ourselves becoming upset because the car in front of us is not traveling the maximum speed allowed by law ... even if we aren't in a rush? Are we rushing out of habit?

The distressing thing about this attitude is that in Walla Walla we can drive anywhere in 15 minutes or less. Even if our lives seem unusually demanding, and we think we need to be several places at once, the reality is that by rushing around, we are at best saving a couple of minutes and at what risk?

We need to ask ourselves, "Is the time I save worth risking a collision that injures an innocent child?" We read all too often about such tragedies. Just this past weekend, north of Spokane a 1-year-old died as the result of a traffic collision involving speed and inattention.

According to the same NHTSC study, speed-related crashes cost Americans $40.4 billion annually. I can't grasp how much money that is, but an average of $808 million dollars per state is an incredible loss, especially with our current economic challenges!

Because of age and gender differences, we are going to have those among us that do speed. Nearly 50 percent of males in the 25-to-34-year-old age group report that they "enjoy the feeling of speed." This compares with about one-third of females in the same age group. That feeling drops off as age increases.

Both males and females are equally impatient with slower drivers. About 38 percent of drivers do not like being behind slower drivers, but this NHTSC study does not define what a slower driver is.

One in three drivers report trying to get to where they are going as fast as they can and this is fairly similar among both males and females. That may help explain that of the 3,715 traffic citations written in Walla Walla last year, 551 were for speeding. If we are in this group that rush here and there for no justifiable reason, then we need to consider the possible consequences not only for our safety but for all the other people that could become victims of this cavalier and dangerous attitude.

As drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians, we must have a healthy respect for what can happen if we are involved in a crash, yet less than 46 percent surveyed in this study worry a lot about being involved in a crash.

Enforcement is one way to bring speed to the attention of someone, but this is only part of the solution.

Each of us must discipline ourselves to be patient, plan ahead and keep in mind the responsibilities we accept when driving. Don't be one of those drivers that want to get there just as fast as they can or someone who cannot stand to drive a little slower than the posted speed limit.

We have a saying in police work when responding to an emergency, "We cannot help anyone if we don't get there safely." We all have obligations for others who depend on us, and we need to be there for them, so please keep that in mind when you have that urge to hurry to the next big thing. Plan ahead!

Capt. Gary Bainter is Patrol Division commander for the Walla Walla Police Department. He can be reached at gbainter@ci.walla-walla.wa.us or 524-4372.

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