Can we all drive nice for a day?
Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - Page updated at 02:01 AM
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Can we all drive nice for a day?
Charlie Phillips is 18. He drives a 2006 Audi A4.
The car goes zero to 60 in 6.6 seconds. Charlie, who goes to Seattle Prep, has been driving for two years. It's a little like taking horseback-riding lessons on Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense. But Charlie assured me he's a safe driver.
"I would say so, because I obey all the traffic rules and have a pretty good sense of what's going on around me," he said. "But on occasion, I would break the speed limit. Slightly."
UW student Bailey Stuvland admits she lets the heft of her Honda Pilot compensate for her failings behind the wheel.
"In a bigger car, you can see better and you're more in control, more powerful," she said. "It kind of fools you."
Me? A cellphone on the dash, an iPod in the charger, and 413 thoughts in my head.
Is it any wonder one pedestrian is killed every 108 minutes, and one injured every eight? Or that 64,000 pedestrians were injured in the state in 2005, according to the federal government?
Ross Bentley thinks we can do better, and he is the force behind making this Thursday "Drive Nice Day."
Bentley, 50, is part of the SWERVE driving school in Bellevue. He's been teaching driver's ed for 30 years. Even raced cars at Indy.
"When we drive, we think about playing golf, piano, work," he said. "We're asking drivers, for one day, focus all your attention on driving and have a collision-free day."
Over time, the sense of responsibility will be as automatic as the transmission.
Bentley is working with members of Headstrong, a group of families and friends of pedestrians injured or killed.
Desiree Douglass' son, Dominick, was struck by a car in the crosswalk at Stone Way North and North 41st Street in Seattle in 2005. He suffered a traumatic brain injury.
The driver, Douglass said, paid $490 in traffic tickets. The crosswalk, she said, is still as dangerous as the day her son, now 13, was hit.
"I would love people to get an awareness of the magnitude of the problem, the human cost of the people we love, and the capacity we have to change it," Douglass said. "It's within our power to slow down, and get a sense of being our brothers' and sisters' keepers on the road."
To give drivers a sense of place, Headstrong will post "Drive Nice Day" signs where loved ones were hit.
Joseph Green, 14, on Northeast 175th Street in July 2005. McKynzie Potter-Meehan, 9, on North 46th Street in October 2004. Billy Baker-Williams, 8, at a school-bus stop on West Sammamish Parkway Northeast in April 2003. Katie Fornier, 20, on Southwest Avalon Way in October 2003.
And Tatsuo Nakata, 29, at 47th Avenue Southwest and Southwest Admiral Way last November. Unlike the others, he did not survive.
"The signs are our way of saying this has happened and it's unacceptable," Bentley said.
A few tips: Look down the road to give yourself time to react. Dump the cell — now.
"Most people can do that," Bentley said. "And anybody who can't, let me at 'em. I'll drive them around myself."
Nicole Brodeur's column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
She's taking deep breaths.
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