Road courtesy, fears have lessons for life

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Guest column by Mary Schmuck

By Mary Schmuck

Very recently I spent some 650 miles worth of time on road travel to a jubilee celebration for some of our Sisters of Mercy in northern Ohio. The celebration was truly beautiful, such a cause for reflection on and great appreciation of God’s providence.

We travelers were pretty good about car-pooling – the car passenger list grew to two in Louisville and to four Sisters in Cincinnati. It was great company besides.

The travel also evoked a number of reflections about how elements of courtesy on the road speak to all of our lives. Some of those reflections include:

• There ought to be a law – against those white blue headlights that are nearly blinding in the dark of 4-6:30 a.m. this time of year.  

• Aren’t we supposed to dim our own headlights as we approach oncoming traffic when it is dark – certainly on a two-lane highway? Much repeated encounters with high beam headlights that time of night: headache generating.

• Are our public safety people concerned about cars and bigger vehicles that have mostly windows darkened? I feel for them as they approach such vehicles. A further disadvantage for others of us on the road: these darkened windows don’t allow us to expand our vision to parts of the broader landscape; riding behind such vehicles is much like being partially blinded behind a truck. There is a lot that a driver needs to take in even subconsciously.

• It is great that we do have laws against other drivers driving while “under the influence.” Talking on a cell phone while driving leaves a driver almost equally impaired; blessed will be the day when that too is not allowed.  

• There are all sorts of information about the harm texting brings to one’s attention while also trying to drive a ton or so of various solid substances often at a pretty good speed.

• It took me about 20 miles of driving to work up nerve to drive 70 mph on I-71 especially in very early morning. I kept thinking: “if I have a wreck at such a speed, it will be quite a splatter ....” At 70 miles per hour we also are well above the speed for maximum fuel efficiency.

My overriding reflection: why do people darken vehicle windows, drive while impaired, use blinding headlights, fail to dim headlights, drive so blessed fast?

Are we newly afraid of sunlight? Has our concern for privacy  reached a whole new level? Are we too busy – that we now have to talk or text while driving, that we lose track of what is going on around us especially from on-coming or surrounding traffic? That my conversation at this time is more important or interesting than the safety of others on the road? What is the full report about those brilliant white blue headlights? Is it a good thing to be so very focused on me?

Overall – is courtesy helpful? Valuable? What about simple awareness of others? How many other ways do I take care to be aware of and courteous to others?

Doesn’t life in these challenging and too-fast-moving times need all the good practices we can muster among us? What beautiful experiences are we simply... missing?

Sister Mary Schmuck, RSM works with Catholic Charities of Louisville Inc., a member of Catholic Charities USA and an apostolate of the Archdiocese of Louisville, provides service for people in need, advocates for justice in social structures, and calls the entire church and other people of good will to do the same.