Last week I sliced off part of my finger.
There’s a lot I can’t do: Wash dishes, drive, bike, lift heavy things that need both hands, chop, fold laundry, write, knit. Mark has been working extra hard at home, and I’ve been putting my five- and seven-year-olds to work as well.
I can’t grip with the hand, so I can’t bike, and I surely don’t want to drive with only one hand. I’m sure many people who don’t have other options would drive anyway. For the most part I haven’t needed to go anywhere, and I’ve felt so terrible I haven’t wanted to go anywhere in the truly foul weather we’ve had the last several days. I did walk to the pharmacy last night, and was glad to get outside with the kids this morning. I can take the bus to the doctor if I need to, though I won’t be taking the kids on the bus any time soon. Four kids on the bus is stressful enough when able-bodied!
The night it happened I got a ride to urgent care from a very generous neighbor. I certainly couldn’t transport myself, was not up for taking the bus or dealing with a cab, and Mark needed to put the kids to bed. I was so grateful to have someone who would drop everything to spend the evening at the doctor with me.
Beyond the new transportation challenges to navigate, it points back to one of my mantras: If you are careful, you don’t have accidents. I tell it to the kids all the time when they do stupid kid stuff. It’s obvious here: I was in a hurry because dinner was late and everybody was cranky hungry. I needed to get the sage chopped so it could go in the pot with the squash. I had no intention of a self-inflicted kitchen knife wound, but I wasn’t careful enough and this time I got really unlucky.
And it happens all the time on our streets. Nobody gets in a car intending to kill someone, but we are in a hurry and get careless. Most of the time we get lucky and the stupid stuff we do with our cars only results in a close call. Occasionally we get unlucky and our carelessness has horrific results. I didn’t check my blind spot and the pedestrian came out of nowhere. I tried to dart through a gap in traffic that wasn’t quite big enough. I wasn’t watching carefully enough when I approached the playground. I didn’t see that the car in the other lane had stopped for someone in the crosswalk. All of these deaths were most likely preventable, if only someone had cared enough to be careful.
All of these deaths were labeled as just horrible accidents. But if you are careful, you don’t have accidents.
As I understand it, in the Netherlands, the person operating the more dangerous vehicle has a duty to be careful enough not to collide with the more vulnerable user. This results in an admirable safety record. Of course, they also design the streets to make it easy to be careful enough and are continually refining the design. We are not helped by street design here, but that just means that people driving must be even more aware of the power they wield and take commensurate care. A culture where drivers are careful enough not to have accidents is possible, if we care enough to make it so.