Sobering thoughts on tragedy

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    I prayed for all those involved in the Santa Monica Farmers Market tragedy. So many friends and colleagues were genuinely stunned by the accident and how many lives have been irreversibly changed. That night I was driving home on PCH, still haunted by the day’s events, when the car in the next lane swerved slowly back and forth over our dividing line. Finally I had to honk my horn to warn them of what they were doing. As I pulled up next to the 40ish looking driver, he smiled apologetically. He was on his cell phone! Had he not heard the news?

    Later that evening. I took my wife and daughter from Point Dome to get a video and yogurt in Malibu. After we parked our car, we walked across the parking lot and a small white car, filled with laughing teenagers, weaved speedily around us at 30 mph in the parking lot! I shouted for them to slow down. They didn’t, they sped towards Blockbuster, skidded to a halt in that crowded parking lot, got out and were laughing. As I walked towards them, intent on talking some sense into them, a Sheriff’s car casually pulled into the parking lot. I waved him down, told him the stupidity and dangerous nature of the kids’ actions and reminded him of the day’s tragedy, in hopes that it might be sobering to these kids. He confronted them and by the time we finished getting our yogurt and video, the kids and car had gone. Although my family doesn’t know anyone in the Farmers Market tragedy, we again suddenly felt the sense of loss and pain, thinking how quickly and recklessly lives can be changed. On the way home, guess what white car, packed with laughing teenagers, whizzed passed us?

    So is it arrogance or stupidity that makes us believe that we are immune to such tragedies. That somehow we could never cause such pain. That it always happens to someone else. That somehow we can always maintain control of our vehicles, no matter what we’re doing.

    Accidents will always happen but shouldn’t we try to tip the odds against them happening by being smart and considerate, especially when driving any vehicle, that even at a slow speed, is a recognized deadly weapon?

    So I plead with one and all, no matter what age you are, think twice about using your cell phone while driving. Avoid any and all distractions that might arise in your car. If you have a teenager, tell them about the potential weapon that they drive. Remember, statistically, more accidents happen within two miles of our homes because we think that’s where we’re the safest. There isn’t one of us, after a tragedy, who wouldn’t say, “If only I could do it over.” Well, here’s your opportunity to do it over. Think ahead. For you family’s, friends’ and maybe even my family’s sake, get your priorities straight. Don’t be stupid, don’t be arrogant. Drive safely. Please.

    Keith Clarke