Behind the wheel, think like Clint Eastwood

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- This summer, service members across the KMC will partake in a European version of the great American pastime called the "road trip." Countless locales across the continent beckon you to come and play. Of course, leisure time plays an important role in the military lifestyle, but no responsibility is as essential as safety. With the 101 Critical Days of Summer upon us, driving safety is more important than ever. After all, no one ever thinks a car wreck will happen to them. At least, that's what I thought. 

It starts out like any other day. You wake up, put on your uniform, grab some breakfast and head to work. The same routine you have always done. 

You drive the same route and pass the same sights. You even begin to notice the same people and the same cars. Everything is going as normal. Then it happens...
You know you have said it to yourself at one time or another: "I am too good of a driver to get in a car wreck." "Car wrecks never happen to me." "I drive way too safe." 

The truth is no one knows when they will be involved in a car wreck. You see the statistics, and you read the newspaper reports, but, in the end, car wrecks are simply something that happen to someone else. Unfortunately, to everyone else, you are someone else. 

As I hung upside down in my Ford Explorer after being run off of the Autobahn, the first thought that ran through my head was, "I hope I did not hit anyone else." Followed quickly by: "How did this happen?" "Could I have done something differently?" "Was I prepared?" "Now, what do I do?" 

There are numerous reasons why car wrecks occur. According to recent studies by Six Wise, the primary causes of accidents include distraction, driver fatigue, equipment failure and aggressive driving. Of course, more than one of these elements is often present in car wrecks. 

The good news is that with suitable planning and proper driving, these elements can be overcome. Unfortunately, Oklahoma State University studies show that more than 40,000 American die every year due to automobile related accidents. Furthermore, car accidents are the leading cause of death for Americans 35 years old and younger. 

Now, don't put your car keys away just yet. The best way to avoid being in a car crash is to think like Clint Eastwood. Clint Eastwood once said, "A man's gotta know his limitations." Do you know your car's limitations? How fast should you be going? Where are your car's blind spots? Are your tires inflated properly? When's the last time you had your brakes checked? 

Still, Mr. Eastwood's wisdom alone cannot completely guard you from being in a car wreck. As previously mentioned, no one knows when they will be in a car wreck. Remember, first and foremost, your seatbelt will save your life! Studies conducted by the Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons tell us that not only do seatbelts reduce death by front seat riders by 50%, but it is also estimated that seatbelts save more than 13,000 lives every year! After my incident, we can make that 13,001. 

Nonetheless, if you are in an accident, make sure you remain calm and do not panic. Check yourself for injuries. If you feel you should not move, then wait for help to arrive. If you are able, clear yourself from the scene. Minor accidents have a way of becoming far worse when oncoming traffic is not paying attention; thus, creating secondary and third crashes. Also, if necessary, administer self-aid buddy care to yourself and others. 

Although my car's new residence is a German junkyard, I walked away unscathed. Within an hour, the only sign that remained of the wreck was a ruined guardrail. Within a day, there was no sign at all. 

I still wake up. I still put on my uniform. I eat breakfast and head to work. I drive the same route past the spot where the accident changed my life in the blink of an eye. There are only two reasons I am able to do these things today: the grace of God and I had a plan. 

It happened to me. It could happen to you. Do you have a plan? Do you know your car's limitations? Do you drive like Clint Eastwood?