My oldest son started college this past Fall – he went far away from Georgia to the west side of South Dakota. He is off pursuing a dream with determination. As a parent, it’s hard to let them go and you hope you’ve done your job and given them confidence, wings, and some common sense.
And it fills me with pride when they want to share some of that new found wisdom with their younger brothers, both of whom are young drivers now – eager to get out there on their own on the open road. And they learned a lot about driving from their older brother who has been driving them around for the past three years. He wrote this for his brothers and other young drivers out there. Proud Mama moment.
So ever since I was first able to drive a car legally, I was repeatedly told I was going too fast. It started off as 45 in a 40 then 50 in a 40 and long story short, I speed. In spite of this, I have until very recently thought of it as harmless rule breaking.
But once I got to the state of South Dakota for college, I kept noticing these signs by the side of the road. They read X Marks the Spot. Think! Drive Safely. On the back of the signs, it says Why Die?
At first, I thought they were just the standard drive safely signs, or don’t drink and drive signs. Turns out they are much more than that. Each and every sign marks the spot of a death from a car incident. Recently, I had to drive from one side of the state to the other. In about 370 miles, I feel like I saw over 200 signs. There were stretches of road where there would be none for miles. Then as the road would begin to turn, you could look over the shoulder and into the ditch and there would be rows of them.
Sometimes when you’re driving, and the roads are iced over or it’s snowy, you can see a Think Sign in the distance, and by the time you get to it, you can feel your truck begin to slip and you can imagine exactly what happened. These signs are also near the train tracks where people unsuccessfully tried to outrun the train. There is one on almost every road I have seen. It’s really eye-opening to see how many people have died on the road between campus and the Walmart.
Growing up in Georgia, I never saw anything like this. When I moved out to South Dakota, the roads were quite different. They are narrow, and a lot more rural than in the suburbs of Atlanta. In the Black Hill, the roads are so narrow, and steep that I learned very quickly that I could not speed here. The roads won’t let you.
It was not a conscious transition to not speed, the roads just demand that you are very cautious at all times and seeing exactly where others have lost their lives is a constant reminder of the risk.
I’ve learned a lot about how the world works since I moved out to South Dakota and the most noticeable change is in my driving style. I can’t drive with the windows down because it’s cold and icy here, and I no longer speed because of my new realization about driving accidents.
My older son asked that I post this on my blog thingy and make sure that his brothers read it as he knows they will have a tendency to drive too fast as well. I would say this awareness campaign that South Dakota has been running since 1979 is working.