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By Aaron Bright on July 17, 2020

How not to die in a motor vehicle crash

A memory keeps popping up which is pretty shameful but does not have a disaster ending.

When I was a 16 or so my best friend and I decided to take an overnight drive to his dad’s house near Yosemite from Los Angeles. The trip was about 5 hours. This is well before my ER night shift skills taught me how to stay up all night. For that matter, I was probably not even full grown.

We took turns driving his giant red truck (very similar to the photo), with cartoon sized off road tires, which had been customized into a “convertible” with a roll bar (it did not have a top, however, so it was permanently open). That may have been the most dangerous vehicle in the universe. No traction, crazy bouncy, absurdly open to the freezing elements, super top heavy… and so why not drive it on icy freeway roads overnight?

I’m sparing you more details because my mom will read this and have a panic attack. Anyway, against all odds, we made it. But I remember, even then, thinking it was nuts and feeling quite stupid for being there. [Side story: a month later as we were driving the truck up a neighborhood street the drive shaft, literally, fell out of the bottom of the vehicle and rolled down the hill.]

I recently read an article by Peter Attia that I thought would be worth sharing. It’s a deep dive into how to avoid death by automobile. The article is very detailed and interesting and the take-aways are well worth repeating. They are derived from the statistics around what (preventable) behaviors cause the most mortality. Here are your rules:

  1. Don’t speed
  2. Don’t drink and drive
  3. Don’t get distracted, Do NOT text
  4. Assume all the other cars are out to kill you

The one that sticks with me as more than just an obvious, yet important, reminder is #4. It’s something I learned from riding a motorcycle (which I gave up when my son was born) and it is an easy shift in perspective. It works great.

Just look around like you’re in a video game. Identify every car in an intersection, every vehicle in a lane near you, every mattress ready to blow off a roof, etc.. Look for all of the things that could potentially kill you if things went badly. Then pretend that they are willfully trying to kill you. Then drive in such a way that you would be able to avoid them if they were to attack.

Many times, you’ll likely find yourself slightly out of optimal position for escape. So, you’ll back off a little, slow down a little, change lanes to give yourself a place veer off in an emergency. After a while it becomes second nature. I assumed everyone did this until I asked around and found out they don’t.

A very tactical post but a motor vehicle accident is a leading potential cause of death for most of us. Stay sharp out there!

This concludes this Safety-Dad message.


Published by Aaron Bright July 17, 2020