Sunday, December 1, 2013

RIP to Paul Walker...a poignant note of caution

By now, it's old news that Paul Walker died in a horrific car crash on Saturday. My sincerest apologies go out to his friends and family, and the loved ones of the driver. It is always shocking to see someone's life cut dramatically short, and even more painful to see the hurt in those he leaves behind.

That being said, his death and the death of the driver were caused by a horribly bad choice in judgement. Cars are not toys, streets are not race tracks, and boys will be boys is never a reasonable excuse. Accepting this sort of behavior puts everyone at risk.

I have raced cars in organized settings, and been a wiling passenger during racing events. I know what good driving looks like, and I know what it means to push the limits. I also know, that even in a controlled environment, pushing those limits can have catastrophic results.

That being said, before I had the maturity to wise up (around the age of 19), I was okay with getting in cars with young guys who thought that city streets were the optimal location to strut their driving expertise. I even recall riding with a guy who thought he was an amazing driver, and that he would be an exceptional racer. Mind you, this was a guy who tried (and failed) to make his S2000 fish tail out of an empty parking lot....that's like trying and failing to flip a light switch. He lacked the understanding to realize that it was not his engine's torque causing the vehicle it to pull drastically to the right, but rather its poor alignment. Every shift was awkward and lurching, and he had the temerity to eagerly ask me, "I mean, yeah, I should totally race, right?"

No...no, I really don't think you should.

The point is, when I was 19, and okay with getting in cars with boys (~chuckle~) pretending to be Mario Andretti, I trusted the guy behind the wheel to get me from point A to point B safely, even if he was driving like an idiot. But that's just the point - if he was driving like an idiot, there was no way he could guarantee my safety. Showing off and having "fun" may give the driver a bit of a high and an ego boost, but to everyone else it's just a hazard.

I have recently had a coworker eagerly suggest that we go for a ride in his Lotus (a car he tracks regularly, and is very proud of). He's been asking and suggesting that we go for months, but the simple fact is that I will never ride with him. He has proudly admitted to trying to scare his passengers when he takes them out for a drive. To me, that's like proudly admitting to trying to scare his friends by holding a gun to their heads and playing Russian roulette.

I'm sorry to see Paul Walker go, and I'm sincerely sorry for his friends and family. The crash was horrific, and I would never wish it upon anyone. But please let it be a reminder that city streets are not race tracks, and no one can account for every variable. If you're dead set on driving like a bat-outta-hell, go for it....in controlled conditions where the only life you risk is yours.

Good drivers are not people who regularly put their life and the lives of those around them at risk by treating the street like a race track.

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