Ever feel like we’ve gone overboard on safety? Of course, you can never be too safe. However, I believe we’ve become ridiculous on the subject—in fact so ridiculous we perceive we are safe in an 80 mph crash. Air bags and crush zones won’t save you at 80. A sudden stop at 80 mph is still a sudden stop. The car stops. However, your vital organs do not.
A bicycle helmet probably won’t protect you when you can’t see the distracted Volvo driver about to run into you. A panic button necklace hanging on your chest isn’t going to save you from a widow maker cardiac. Stair railing won’t help you when your arms are entangled in a winter coat and you fall on your face.
Your birth certificate ensures your death certificate. Sunrise – Sunset… Your origins—and your journey along the way—still determine your destiny.
The question remains how did we make it as far as we have? We grew up with open station wagon tailgate windows, no seat belts, steel dashboards, lawn darts, BB guns, tall sliding boards and slip-sliding wax paper, asphalt and concrete playground surfaces, galvanized steel monkey bars, see-saws and crazy friends, and Howdy Doodie.
Some of us grew up in homes long on corporal punishment with belts, switches, and 30 minutes with your nose in a corner not to mention the torture of “wait til your father gets home…” We managed to survive all of that.
When and why did we become so overboard on safety when we managed to survive rough and tumble childhoods when all this safety equipment didn’t exist? Because agencies enlisted with public safety have studied this issue enough to know we needed to be safer. The answer is also common sense. There were things we knew not to do because we were told not to do it.
Some of us were stupid enough to do it anyway. Doing a handstand on a bicycle seat going down a steep hill was something most of us knew not to do. Doing a backflip too close to the high dive would cause brain damage and we all knew it.
What saved most of us was survival instinct—and that age old fear of pain and physical harm. A lot it, too, comes from what our parents taught us growing up. Don’t touch the hot stove. Don’t run with scissors. Hand me the knife with the handle toward me. Don’t touch the prongs when plugging in a lamp. Refrain from putting aluminum foil in the microwave. Keep your bike off the slippery ice. Don’t hang outside the car window. Look both ways before crossing the street.
All common sense issues.
Some of us have born in common sense while others of us had to be taught. I still believe in Darwin. Despite our rough and tumble pasts, there were friends who didn’t survive while others wound up in wheelchairs and special care facilities. I recall being a passenger with a crazy friend at the wheel who put the pedal to the metal going down a twisty winding hill at a high rate of speed. I felt panicked, wondering if we were going to die because he almost lost control. We managed to reach the bottom in one piece and got home safely. None of us was wearing a seat belt and our transportation was a 1968 Chevy Impala.
I often wonder of others who went through the same horror who didn’t survive. A friend of mine was killed in front of his home at a high rate of speed with a drunk buddy at the wheel in a Chevy Nova. They struck a parked car and he was crushed to death upon impact. It was a shocker for all of us and a reminder to drive safely.
I believe we are survivors because we’ve chosen the path of caution and safety. Common sense thinking has kept most of us out of harm’s way. Raising a glass to those of you who’ve survived.
Take heart in where you are today. You are a survivor.
4 thoughts on “How Did We Ever Survive?”
Touched a lot of nerves here. Well done.
My grandkids rode until recently in foam and harness cocoons. My one years old daughter made it from California to Texas on the backseat of a Honda Accord. I rode around in steel clad aircraft carriers in a metal frame car seta with a metal steering waiting to smash my face if there had been a wreck. I journeyed far and wide lying in the back end of 50s and 60s station wagons waiting to be jettisoned cargo. Fortunately, I never was. Whenever the conversation comes up about “over safetyizing” i remember the phrase “You can’t cure stupid.” Nor can you prevent it. I do think every vehicle that comes off the line should have a breathalyzer wired to the ignition. Drunk and wrong way on a highway is currently unstoppable.
Survival is about common sense. Some by nature understand the dangers in life and know instinctively how to avoid them. Others lack the instinct. I agree on having the built in technology to stop DUI. Drug use? Not sure how to stop that. Such utter foolishness out there now. I suppose always has been. We all remember stupid kids we hung with who did crazy things. I remember a high school buddy – nutty as a fruit cake – doing donuts all over the high school parking lot. That works until you take out a light pole.
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