At all times, safety first
Published 12:07 pm, Friday, November 20, 2009
Tuesday the Connecticut Post released a horrifying video documenting a June 13 crash between a Milford police vehicle and a car operated by a teenage driver (http://www.connpost.com/ci_13807681). The video was taken from a camera mounted on Police Officer Rick Pisani's cruiser as it traveled down the Post Road in Milford at about 2 a.m. As the vehicle nears 70 miles per hour (indicated in the video), it shows another police cruiser, being driven by Officer Jason Anderson, pull up on the right and eventually surpass the vehicle that had the camera.
It is estimated that the passing police vehicle was traveling at or near 94 mph at the time it struck the teenagers' car, which was in the process of making a left across the Post Road. The teenagers were killed in the accident, and the scene was so mangled that it took investigators months to tell which teen was driving.
There were many mistakes that were made that night by all three vehicles involved in the incident. The police officers, who had left a West Haven scene just three minutes before the accident, were apparently having what they probably felt was a friendly road race on the desolate streets of Milford. It is now being alleged that 19-year-olds Aslie Krakowski and David Servin had been drinking that night. These were deliberate decisions by three drivers, all adults in the eyes of the law.
What is important to note, however, is that these deliberate decisions left no room for error as the situation came to a head. Suddenly the drivers had to make split-second decisions: the time it took for Anderson to pass Pisani and then plow into the car driven by the teenagers is less than 5 seconds -- at a rate of 138 feet per second. It seems longer.
Five seconds may seem like a lot of time if you're an Olympic athlete or television producer, but in life-or-death situations, its not much time at all.
Viewed from that perspective, it is really amazing to count all the decisions that were made by each driver within that time-period and to realize how much can really happen in five seconds.
Studies show that taking your eyes off the road for as little as 3 seconds can have fatal consequences. With all the built-in distractions in cars these days (CD/MP3 players, GPS systems, temperature adjustments for every seat in the vehicle, etc.), not to mention the distractions that we bring into the cars ourselves (phones, food, drinks, DVD players), it's amazing that drivers can even keep their eyes on the road for 3 seconds.
The newer the technology, the quicker we become as a society. We want things done faster, we want information faster, and we want to get places faster. All of which is reinforced by the popular media -- movies, shows and commercials. How often do we see car commercials where the driver was happily driving within the acceptable speed limit? Instead, the car companies showcase how fast the vehicle can be.
Using a fatal example set by the police officers that night, just testing a vehicle's capabilities -- even for a few seconds -- can be fatal.
You never know what can happen in a matter of seconds. The speeding police officer probably did not guess that as soon as he pushed that accelerator to the floor, another car would attempt to make it across the street in front of him. In driving, just as there is in life, there is no guarantee about anything, and safety should be a priority at all times.
Here in Westport we have all seen cars race up and down the Post Road, and over the years we have seen some pretty serious accidents on this and other roads in town. Parker Harding Plaza is a popular place to drive much faster than conditions warrant. We frequently see near (and sometimes actual) accidents because cars drive too fast or play games. This is especially dangerous for an area overloaded with a combination of pedestrians, businesses and parked cars.
Those who haven't seen the video should take the time to check it out. It is a sobering reminder to just how quickly fun and games behind the wheel can turn deadly. As weather worsens and as holiday parties fill up our calendars, please make a concerted effort to slow down on the roads. No matter what time of day it is, and no matter how much traffic (pedestrian or vehicular) is on the roads, anything can happen at any time.
Regardless of whether you're a first-time driver, someone who drives for a living, a town employee or an everyday resident, it is never a good idea to take your mind off the road.