Have you ever passed one of those signs on the freeway? You know–the ones that list the number of deaths since the beginning of the year. Or the other signs, proclaiming that zero fatalities is the only goal. If you’re anything like me, you stare at them and blink once or twice as the sign goes past before refocusing on your destination. Maybe a flitting thought interrupts the process: gosh, isn’t putting signs up like that a driving hazard?
I’ve never been a terribly emotional person. (That’s kind of a lie, I’m just differently emotional). I don’t cry at the “right” times and I don’t get squeamish unless I decide to be. So it surprised me when, once upon a time, my teacher said she felt sad every time she passed one of those signs. I’d never really considered it before then. 14… 27… 53 now 72 fatalities since January first? What does that mean, really? All that represents to me is a number.
Ever since then I’ve started looking for them. Just to see if I could spot them, wonder about their lives. Those people matter too, I told myself. They’re so much more than a number, a dot on a page or a name on a plaque in the middle of a city center. They had lives, families, mothers and husbands and wives and grandchildren. And even if they didn’t–if they lived alone in an apartment with a cactus for a pet and two minimum wage jobs–they still had worth.
I wish I could say it made me change my driving. That putting more thought into the lives of the deceased helped me change. But in reality, I didn’t change until my mom and I were speeding down a UK freeway, watching the practically impeccable habits of their motorists. They paid more attention to speed limits, passed cars on the correct side, didn’t cut other people off… it was a bit startling, actually. And so when I came back, I decided I didn’t deserve a free pass on something others respected. It’s been interesting, trying to follow the rules more carefully. And I think I like it.
You may be wondering what the moral to this thought is. But take a moment to consider: when have you actually changed? When have you been moved by something and then really gone out of your way to alter yourself or your habits to match it? If you’re anything like me, you need a clear picture of the end result. You need to believe it’s possible. You need to see the effects of the change yourself and want them before you really take the leap yourself. I’m not saying that’s how it ought to be, only remarking that’s how I am for now. But it does add evidence to one fact: change is possible. And a major part of it is belief. So someday, on December 31, I believe I’ll pass a sign that says Zero fatalities for the entire year.
Thanks for reading,