Writing about driving safety after a weekend like this one is a fine line. Two people died in the area after separate crashes on Sunday.
Investigations into the crashes are ongoing. Both were single-vehicle crashes with only the driver listed by the Iowa State Patrol as being in the vehicles. That makes finding out what happened a lot harder.
We write this not to assess blame or to speculate on what happened. There isn’t enough information to justify the latter, and the former would be entirely pointless. We write with a simple plea for drivers: be careful.
A total of 318 people were killed on Iowa roads in 2018, according to the Iowa State Patrol. That was down from 330 the year before. But crashes were up. This year had 118 fatalities through last Friday, a bit ahead of the 2018 numbers, though nowhere near 2016’s high.
It’s easy to forget what driving really is. Most of us do it every day, with barely more thought behind it than pouring cereal into a bowl for breakfast. The fact technology has made the act of guiding vehicles that weigh a ton or more that easy is remarkable. But it also lends itself to a false sense of security behind the wheel.
Driving entails enormous responsibility. It requires focus, attention to detail and an awareness of constantly changing surroundings. All of us have our lapses. People remain imperfect, and errors happen despite our best intentions. Fortunately, in most cases, other drivers on the road are paying attention as well. The result is that near misses are much more common than collisions.
All of us remember that first time we sat behind the wheel of a car, with a parent or instructor in the passenger’s seat. There was an awareness in that moment of how much bigger the vehicle is than what we’re used to, and how much attention is going to be needed.
Over time, it’s easy for that understanding to fade. Driving becomes routine, even a chore. It becomes so commonplace that we think major distractions — eating, talking on the phone, or checking a map — aren’t that significant after all.
There’s probably no way to regain that heightened sense of attention that comes with those first steps. Not after uncounted hours and tens of thousands of miles on roadways. Yet caution remains as critical as it was that first time.
That’s especially true in June, which generally sees more fatalities than other months. It’s not really a surprise, since that’s when schools are out and families hit the road for vacations. It doesn’t have to be that way, though.
All we ask is that people be careful. Set aside the distractions. Ease off the accelerator a bit. It’s far more important that you and others get to your destinations safely than anything else.