Twenty-seven years ago a hit and run driver forced me head-on into the path of a 26,000 pound Peterbilt tri-axle dump truck. The resulting collision was epic, stopping traffic in both directions for two hours, while medics cut my mangled body out of the car and Life Flight whisked me 50 miles away to the closest Level 3 Trauma Center.
Remarkably, I survived, but the accident changed my life forever. Physically, I was broken into smithereens, but over the years my injuries have settled down. The more profound changes weren’t physical, but rather emotional, intellectual and, dare I say, spiritual. Living through a near death experience fundamentally changes your perspective on life, your very purpose for living. It changes your values, despite what we teach with our Can Do/Will Do Model. As I lay broken in the intensive care unit with less than a one percent chance of living through the night, my passion for safety grew threefold, just like the Grinch’s heart.
No one ever found the culprit who caused the accident. He had just illegally passed the dump truck as well as several cars, crossing over the double yellow line all the way. When he came over the hill, he was in my lane, aimed right at me. Was he drunk? Was he late for work? Was he distracted? Did he even understand the risk he took? We’ll never know. What we do know, is that his choice that day has affected the lives of more than a million people in a very positive way.
I decided to dedicate the balance of my life to making the world a safer place. I formed Avatar Management Services, Inc. in 1992 and surrounded myself with like-minded people who share my passion for doing good for others. I was just smart enough to know I needed to hire people who were smarter and more talented than I. Together, we have created world class safety programs for dozens of major transportation companies. I founded AvatarFleet, The School Bus Safety Company, and TAPTCO to provide outcome-based defensive driving training to their respective niche markets. All in all, our unique approach to defensive driving has been taught to more than one million professional drivers.
We’ve done well. We’ve saved lives and made the world a safer place. But every day while driving, I still see unsafe behaviors. People following too closely, texting, changing lanes without signaling, driving too fast for conditions. The list goes on and on. Do you see it? Do you do it? If so, why?
Humans are capable of choice. We’re not reliant on instincts, but rather cognition. Every minute that you are behind the wheel is an opportunity to make a choice. You can choose to drive defensively and with caution, or pursue a selfish reward by accepting too much risk. We’re tempted to speed, run red lights or break other laws because we think we’ll get somewhere sooner. We’re tempted to text while driving to keep in touch with a friend or to avoid boredom. But the benefits we get from making these choices are insignificant when compared to the potential calamities our unsafe behaviors pose.
Life is precious. Please, Look Ahead, Look Around, Leave Room and Communicate. Don’t break the law. Enjoy a full life and die old of natural causes. That’s my hope for me and my wish for you.