This is a guest post from our resident no-meat triathlete, Susan Lacke.
Are you reading this article on your cell phone right now?
If so, are you behind the wheel of a car?
Please. Put down your cell. NOW. Get to your destination. I promise, I’ll still be here when you come back. Go on.
It seems strange, writing about your driving habits, when most of my articles on this site are about locomotion using the two-wheel variety or the old school hoofin’ it. But now, more than ever, I’m intimately familiar with how 2,000-pound four-wheeled vehicles impact the physical activity of every athlete.
I got hit by a car while riding my bike. Again.
I’m not sure what happened. First I was riding, and then I wasn’t. I was on the road, then I was in someone’s lawn. I was upright, then I was faceplanted in the grass. I was satisfied with a great workout, then I was crying, scared, and hurting.
This is the third time it’s happened to me. What hurts the most is not the broken ribs. It’s not the concussion. It’s not the road rash and bruises. It’s my faith in humanity.
You see, when I’ve been hit while cycling, the drivers didn’t stop, but just kept on going. When talking with a police officer, I asked why this might be — the answer? They probably didn’t even realize what happened, or, if they did, simply didn’t want to get caught and admit they weren’t paying attention behind the wheel.
When I heard that, it took every ounce of strength I had to maintain my composure. I wanted to have a meltdown. I wanted to grab someone by the shoulders and shake them. I wanted to scream: G-dammit-how-do-you-hit-another-person-and-not-know-it-what-the-hell-ARE-YOU-AN-ASSHOLE-OR-JUST-STUPID-GAAAAAAAAAAH!
Ahem. Pardon my French.
Distracted driving is growing at an alarming rate. In your car, you probably multitask: You drink your coffee, eat your snack, check your e-mail on your BlackBerry, change the music on your iPod, talk to your child in the backseat, read the billboards on the side of the road, daydream, and text. You read about the texting-while-driving accidents in the news and “tsk-tsk-what-a-tragedy” but rest assured that it would never happen to you. You’re a much better driver than that.
Except for those times when you’re reading an e-mail on your phone and look up and quickly notice the car in front of you is stopped, causing you to slam on your brakes. Or those times when you’re looking for a specific song on your iPod and look up to realize you’re in the oncoming traffic lane. Or those times when you space out and realize you have no recollection of the last 15 minutes of driving.
I’m not really a fan of using scare tactics to make a point. But let’s face it: I’m scared. In a matchup between car vs. bike, the vehicle with heft, seatbelts and airbags beats a simple ultralight bike and helmet every single time. I could be dead. I should be dead. All because someone wasn’t paying attention.
It’s been three weeks since my accident. The road rash is almost all gone, and I can finally take deep breaths again without it hurting too much. But I still can’t bring myself to get back on the roads. I’m terrified.
I’ve written before on how you can stay safe while running, cycling, or swimming. Now, my plea has nothing to do with your participation in any of those activities.
When you drive, promise me you’ll remember you are operating a piece of machinery that weighs thousands of pounds. If you haven’t been hit by a car before, take it from me: You feel every single one of those pounds when you’re hit.
Put down the cell phone. You can wait until you get home to text your friend that you LOL’d (You know weren’t really laughing out loud anyway). You can pull over to the side of the road to call your spouse back about what kind of wine you’d like to pick up for dinner. You can read No Meat Athlete when you’re not behind the wheel of a car. When you’re driving, make that one task your priority. Everything else can wait.
I’ll get the confidence to get back on the road one of these days. When I do, I hope you see me pedaling away in the bike lane.
Really, I hope you see me.
I’d like that.