Monday, November 22, 2010

Three reasons to drive SLOWLY

My vet was out at the barn this past weekend to deal with a mild colic. I walked past with Riley and he patted him and said, "It's so nice to see a happy horse. I've seen too many unhappy horses this weekend." He looked uncharacteristically haggard. I asked if there had been a rash of colics. The answer was no.

Not colics. It was something much worse.

Waking nightmare on Route 94
Late Saturday night, my vet was called out to a  farm, not to help a sick horse, but to put down three horses that were catastrophically injured. They had gotten loose, and were all together on the road, and  all three were hit by a car. The passengers in the car were helicoptered out, no word on them. The horses? I was spared any description except for a comment that "it was a scene from WWII." I later found this news account: Horses on Warren County Highway cause accident. The account differs from what the vet said -- I'm inclined to go with the vet's account.

Myth: It's safe to speed on country roads
Some people look at country roads as an opportunity to speed -- to enjoy the power, to make up time, whatever. When I go to my barn, it's likely as not I'll have someone riding my tail, swerving to try to pass me, flashing their brights. I'm sure they're thinking why the hell is she so slow?

Here's my response...
I'm slow because I KNOW this road and it's many blind curves.  I know where the deer graze. I know about the elderly lady that tends to plantings at the edge of the road. I know there's a Mennonite church where kids play.  I know the farms that have horses and tape fencing.

Hurtling through space 55MPH in the dark
We feel safe in our cars, but think about being in a metal box hurtling through the dark -- sound safe to you?  Think of those poor people  and those frightened horses on the road. The accident may have been unavoidable -- but in many cases careful, defensive, just plain SLOW driving can prevent collisions.

Me, I drive slowly, often at or under the speed limit, depending on conditions. I think about safety. I've been the butt of a few jokes.  I don't care about being uncool. I'm not into carnage -- horse or human -- and nothing at the end of my route is so urgent that it can't wait an extra minute or two.

 Info on Rural road safety 
  • Two-thirds of all highway fatalities occur on rural roads even though two-thirds of all accidents occur on urban roads.
  • Rural roads often aren't as well-engineered as urban highways; rural drivers have lower rates of seat-belt use and higher drunken-driving rates, and acute medical care is often slower to reach crash victims.
  • A larger portion of vehicles in rural fatal crashes are involved in head-on collisions, 25 percent,
    than in urban crashes, at 14%.
  • Approximately 71 percent of rural fatal crashes occurred on  roadways with speed limits of 55 mph or higher.
  • 69 percent of Americans responded that they felt safe on multilane freeways in urban areas, while 79 percent felt safe on two-lane highways in rural areas.  
  • Rural drivers are more likely to speed than urban drivers.
  • Crash victims are five to seven times more likely to die if arrival to a hospital exceeds 30 minutes.
Safety Data Facts: Rural/urban Comparison National Highway Traffic Safety Admin.
Center for Excellence on Rural Safety


    1. Slower driving makes a big difference. I used to live in Warren County and I am sure that I flew down many a country rode, but I have changed my ways.

      I did not truly appreciate how dangerous a car can be until I nearly caused a terrible accident. I was in my early twenties, driving late at night, in the rain, with the radio up, sleep-deprived and without my glasses (I am near-sighted). In hindsight, it was incredibly foolish and I am lucky that no one was injured except for me: some minor bruises and a smart punch in the face from the airbag. Talk about a wake-up call. I ran a red light and totaled my (new) car, but I learned an invaluable lesson. Now speeders make me see red and catch my breath.

    2. Thank you for posting this! I live on a winding rural road and I can't tell you the number of people I see out for joy rides in sports cars or motorcycles, all of them speeding! They seem to have no idea of the danger they're in. There are deer everywhere and horses and cattle get loose all the time. And, because we're so rural, we have no police and no emergency services, so if you get in an accident it's going to be awhile before the state troopers or ambulance get to you, if they even know you're there!

      I remember being told in Driver's Ed that at 50 mph your stopping distance is greater than the distance that your headlights illuminate. If you drive faster than 50 mph at night, you will not be able to stop in time when you see something in the road!

    3. Hi Stacey, so agree with driving safely. The speed limit is just that. Under NO circumstances is one to exceed it. period. You might like to look into finding the bumper sticker that simply says 'mobile speed bump'. The theory is that if enough of us are mobile speed bumps we will force people to slow down, So far I have merely stayed alive and irritated countless drivers!

    4. Heh - mobile speed bump, LIKE it. I like to think I've saved a few lives.

    5. Creepy...I had a similar conversation with my vet this week.

      People fly by on my road. It looks straight but has many undulations and the car that ended up crashed into the bank in front of my house might well have been airborne at some point.

      And then, just this week the horse farm owner from across the woods and his wife were in a crash--she was killed. I am not sure of the fault in that one, but they were only about a mile from home. Tragic. Again, country roads at night.

    6. That was my biggest pet peeve when I lived in Texas. The rural road that I took to get to my horses was surrounded by cow and horse pastures and people were always on my tail. I thought the speed limit of 50 was too high anyway, but most people didn't even go that slow.
      A friend of mine hit a horse as a teenager and was seriously traumatized by it.
      Very sad about those horses and the people that hit them.

    7. My partner rounded the corner on a paved road just in time to see an out-of-control horse & rider galloping straight toward her! She had to slam on the breaks, if she was going any faster, they would have had a collision. Great reminder to drive slowly!

    8. i always have people tailgating me on roads like this, i've heard too many horrible horse-car crash stories though so i agree.. nothing is too important it can't wait another few minutes.

    9. I recently spent a week at my trainer's place, out in the country on a narrow road that people routinely drive 70mph on.

      Two horses made their way several miles down that road in the wee hours and ended up loose on her farm, somehow safely. I rounded them up - scary because they could have spooked back out into the road.

      Meanwhile my trainer drove around and found the owners, who proceeded to - I kid you not - lead the horses home along the same road from the back of a pickup truck.

    10. Very good post to remind us all to slow down and be aware of our speed. I'm very sorry for the 3 horses and the people in the car. That is tragic.

    11. Another mobile speed bump here.

      Once I was hauling horses at night, in the pouring rain, approaching an area deer crossed frequently. I was doing about 50 mph when I saw those eyes at the roadside and braked. The impatient driver behind me passed and struck both deer. The driver was okay but irate, one deer was mangled, the other vanished although injured, the responding deputy was hot under the collar, and I was strangely satisfied. The deputy asked "Did you think she braked just to piss you off?" and the other driver said "Yes!" Some people....

    12. Thank you - I too go slowly on rural roads to the great annoyance of almost everyone else who ends up behind me.

      A dear friend lost two horses many years ago to a speeding car hitting them in the night. The police officer who came to the scene had to shoot the horses to end their suffering.

    13. Yes, yes, yes.

      I live on a country road, and although we've been lucky and never had horses get out, I have had to call for help for kids running their cars off the road at the dogleg just down from us more times than I can count. On several occasions people have been airlifted out, and on two different occasions people have died. Not to mention the many pets, deer, and other creatures who have met a terrible end because of speeders.

      Our neighbor, who owns the tricky stretch of road, was so torn up by the first deaths that he spent his own money to put up a big barricade with reflectors so it would be easier to see that the road turned there. Well, guess what, some drunk speeding kids plowed straight into the reflective barricade. That was the second set of deaths.

      I don't know if anything will ever change the behavior of young people, but it can't hurt to spread awareness - conditions on rural roads are dangerous and unpredictable. If you drive faster than your ability to react, you might kill someone and you might die yourself, so slow down.

      I've heard somewhere that you need at least three seconds between the time you see something and the time you pass it to react. So if you're on a wooded road with tight curves, you need to be driving slowly. Ditto a road with ditches which might contain deer who will jump in front of you.

    14. My friend's horse died from getting hit by a truck in the middle of the night. She had gotten out of the pasture, the driver was drunk, and it was all a really bad situation.

    15. The speed limit on our main road (we live on an offshoot) dropped from 50 to 40 several years ago after an elderly man was hit and killed while returning from his mailbox (it was after a curve across the street from his home). Sad that it took such a tragic and terrible event to get people to slow down. I tend to drive on the fogey side of fifty-five myself :o)

    16. Ugh. This is a major peeve of mine. People go SO FAST down the rural road that my barn is on. It is a freaking 35MPH zone and a lot of drivers easily go 65MPH or MORE like they think they're on the interstate.

      It is completely self-centered and thoughtless. Unless they are an ambulance, they are totally out of line. I don't care how late they are to their kids' soccer game, the big meeting, the big date, or how much they enjoy driving their car.

      The road has lots of blind corners and woods right up against it.

      People don't THINK until something BAD happens.

      I'm afraid to RIDE down the road. I'm afraid to WALK down the road.

      They are probably going too fast to see my middle finger in the rear view mirror.

    17. I grew up in the country and had to drive loooong roads that were perfect for speeding. I've seen baby deer (newborn) that have lost their energy and decided to take a break in the middle of the road, I've seen horses and cows get loose, and huuuge elk/elephant hybrids have jumped in front of my car - if I were speeding, chances are those things (or me) wouldn't be living. I remember a school bus actually hitting a horse on the highway at one point. So much blood stained the road - horrifying.


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