As most of you know, I grew up in the country, the rolling fields and meadows of southeastern Pennsylvania.
My parents built our first house down in a little hollow, pinched in between peach orchards and cornfields, on a dirt road with a creek running through it. We had milk delivered to the front porch and our street address was ‘rural route #2’ – no house number, we were known by our last name.
I worked as a farmhand and learned how to drive a tractor when I was 13. We used to take the late 80s pick-up truck out into the field and practice driving, hammering the gas and jerking the wheel left and right to master our counter-steering.
We’d race homemade go-karts, dirt bikes, 3-wheelers and 4-wheelers – just about anything that had a motor. We walked (or drove) through early adolescence with reckless abandon and a limited sense of danger or consequences.
When we finally turned 16, passed our driver’s test and felt the weight of a set of keys in our hands, it suddenly became very real. We carried all that knowledge over to goin’ muddin’ in our lifted pick-up trucks and pushing used ‘sports’ cars to their limits. It’s a wonder that I’m even around to wax and reminiscence about some of the close-calls that filled those years.
This is partially the reason that I’m taking the ‘Drive Safe Today Day Pledge’ on September 3rd.
I’m now approaching the age of 40 and have three kids. These days, I’m much more responsible.
If I were to dial in on a specific turning point, I’d say that it was in October of 2009. It was on the drive home from the hospital after Ava was born. I’ll never forget actually putting both hands at 10 and 2, doing 10 mph under the speed limit, my head crunched into my body like a turtle, cringing and paranoid as I rolled along in the right lane going down La Cienega Blvd. in Los Angeles.
It was a combination of getting older and being responsible for someone else’s life that has taught me the value of driving safely – along with a few other things, like some of the most frustrating drivers on the road.
But it isn’t just those crazies that worry me. It’s people who are trying to do too much – whether it be styling your hair, shaving your beard, reading the paper, texting and drinking your coffee, all while weaving in and out of traffic on the beltway doing 60 mph.
We need to focus on the task at hand – operating a 2-ton piece of metal responsibly.
We all need a reminder every once in a while, especially me. My wife tells me that I wear my heart on my sleeve when I’m driving… If I’m angry, you know it. If I’m sad, you know it. If I’m happy, you know it!
Another reason that I’m passionate about driving safely is due to the loss of my one-year old niece at the hands of a reckless driver, which was the focus of my work with Progressive last year.
If you can relate to my teenage memories of feeling invincible behind the wheel, wondering how you’re also here to read this – or you happened to read my article from last year and it rocks you to the core, I implore you to hop on board with us and take this pledge.
It’s not just about driving safely one day, yet it is. Big things start off small – and if you commit to this, maybe it carries over to the next day and the following week – and maybe it even becomes your new normal.
So go take all those stuffed animals out of your rear window, sit up straight and stop texting, at least until you’re off the road.
You’re helping to save lives.
DISCLOSURE: This post was written in partnership with Progressive Insurance. I have been compensated, but the thoughts and ideas are my own. For additional driving safety tips, check out Progressive’s Drive Safe Today Day program.