Slowly but Surely?

June 18th 2020
By: Carrie Whitfield

Slowly but surely many of us are returning to our normal work commute. Unfortunately, it’s not always the case that everyone is travelling slowly enough, and it is never guaranteed that we will reach our destination safely.

I have a 10-minute commute most days. Within the first week of returning to my daily commute, and within the first five minutes and one mile of my home, I abruptly met a distracted driver. More accurately, the front of his vehicle met the tailgate of my truck.

This was my first real vehicle accident. I am going to miss that truck. I am not, however, going to miss how it felt to grab the wheel as hard as I could, or how it felt when the rush of uncertainty washed over me. What is about to happen to me? What is going to happen to the other driver?

I watched a vehicle approaching in my rearview mirror. He was going way too fast considering I was at a full stop. Time slowed instantly. I managed to release my grip on the wheel just long enough to honk like mad attempting to get the driver to look straight ahead and slam on their brakes. The driver did both, a bit too late.

SMASH!
My Aunt has been in a hospital bed for more than six months. Two broken legs, a fractured neck, bruised organs and so much more. At 70 plus years old – at any age really – I am extremely lucky she is alive. I won’t be complaining about my neck pains to her.

As I write this, I am again reminded how lucky I am. My life was impacted by my experience, but my Aunt’s life was thrown completely off track and I could have lost her forever.

I am also reminded that I need to do all that I can to prepare myself, my vehicle and my passengers for the safest journey possible every single time I drive. While we can’t control everything that happens on the road, we can control quite a lot.

A few things you can do to stay safe on the road: Inspect your vehicles for damage, flat tires and check that all of your lights function properly and that you have enough fluids and fuel to reach your destination. Know where you are going and how to get there safely and don’t forget that seatbelt. In Alaska especially, I remind myself to expect the unexpected, take extra food, water and blankets in the winter. When headed out of town, I make sure to tell someone where I am going and when I should get there. Pre-planning and preparedness are key no matter how you choose to stay safe.

No matter how far you are going or how simple the journey may seem, please recognize that your own state of mind and level of preparedness might save a life. It could be your own.

June is National Safety Month and Alaska Safety Alliance would like you to know that more than 1.3 million people per year are killed in traffic incidents. Daily, driver behavior is responsible for over 80% of injuries and fatalities that occur on the road. For more information on driving safety please visit:

www.nsc.org/road-safety/tools-resources/safe-driving-toolkit

About Carrie Whitfield

Carrie Whitfield joins ASA with 12 years of experience supporting Alaska’s oil and gas industry, both on and off the North Slope. Since 2009, she has specialized in construction and operations health, safety and environmental training development and delivery, as well as compliance-database administration and project-turnover coordination. Carrie holds a Construction Health and Safety Technologist (CHST) certification and other training certifications. Prior North Slope experience includes field safety on Point Thomson, Skid 50, various pipeline-renewal projects and construction-turnover coordination.

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