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Guns, Cars, and Accidents

Guns, Cars, and Accidents

Speed Demons #9
January 1958

Guns, Cars, and Accidents Guns, Cars, and Accidents
My home city is the toughest place in the entire United States in which to get a pistol permit. You get a thorough checking by our police department. But when you do get your pistol, you can't call yourself an "expert shooter." In my capacity as a pistol instructor I have the task of instructing all the men in one of the pistol clubs in our city.

One of the younger members of our club informed his wife he was going to get a pistol. "A pistol in our house?" she sort of challenged him. Then she went into a steady talking diet of how dangerous a gun could be. "Never," she insisted, "Could I have a minute's rest knowing that in your desk there was a gun and real bullets."

Dramatic? That could be the answer. But let me inform you that this very same woman has already been in three automobile accidents. And one of these was caused by her own carelessness. So which are more dangerous: Guns or Cars?

Since I also write about Hot Rods and other kinds of automobiles, I think I am in a position to discuss this matter of safety. When we look at the terrible list of destruction, in terms of human beings and property caused by automobiles, we all say: "Something should be done about the matter." But that is like talking about the weather. The weather has been a standard topic of discussion for years. Yet all people realize that we have up to the present done almost nothing about the weather. For the record, let it be said we have been able to cause rain by "seeding" clouds.

When something goes wrong, we try to find somebody whom we can blame for an unfortunate situation. When the person has nothing to do with the situation, but still receives the blame, we call such a person a "scapegoat." Who is to receive the blame for the accidents upon our highways?

Older people point youth: "These teen-agers are a menace upon the roads. Shouldn't be permitted to drive a car."

Younger people point to older people: "The older folks are a menace upon the roads. Shouldn't be permitted to drive a car."

And this can continue without stop. Men blame women drivers and women drivers blame men. Where shall we start? Le't start with a revolver. Every shooter in our club knows that when he handles a revolver, he is in contact with potential death. Therefore this must be his guiding point. There is no such "thing" as an unloaded revolver. Every shooter treats his revolver at all times as though it were loaded. That means he never points it at another person. Nor does he handle it carelessly in any manner. Our rules provide for a suspension for the first infraction. Suspension is a serious matter. Should it ever happen a second time, the man is ousted from the club, the Police Department notified, and his permit to handle a gun is revoked. If you happen to be a shooter, you will agree this is sensible and sane.

Suppose we impress this one important point into every driver's mind: When you are at the wheel of the car, you are handling potential death. You may use your car for business. Or you may use it for pleasure or a combination of business and pleasure. This huge monster driven by a powerful motor is a potential killer. You can run down a pedestrian. You can smash into a telephone pole. Or you can hit another car. Just as we know how accidents are caused by guns — we also know how accidents are caused by cars.

Now let's get one point straight: More accidents are caused by cars than by guns. We have had many accidents in the past caused by hunters. My home state has a law which compels a potential hunter under 21 to take a course in hunter safety instruction before he gets his license. I also give this course as a volunteer member of our State Conservation Department. We show how to handle guns and the causes of different types of gun accidents.

So let's look at one simple cause of accidents: Drink inside the driver! Alcohol has two important serious effects upon a driver. It slows down his time reaction. And the difference of a split second is the difference between a crash and death or just going long the highway. Second, it tends to loosen mature moral judgment. The driver with drink inside of him doesn't care what happens. His foot goes down all the way on the accelerator. And he even goes over to the wrong side of the road.

In shooting we have a sensible slogan: "Gunpowder and Alcohol do not mix!" A drunken man going down the street with a rifle in his hand is at once an evident menace to the community. We must definitely see that the same applies to a driver. Therefore we must take measures to protect the innocent pedestrian and the innocent driver of the other car. We need uniform laws which would provide a suspension of a driver's license for the first offense. And total revocation for the second offense. If you think this is tough, then just let this sink into your mind: How tough is it for the widow of the driver who was killed by the drunken driver? She has to raise three little kids. And how tough is it for the victim of another drunken driver who must spend the rest of his life in a wheel chair?

There has been a Psychological Blocking in our thinking about this one angle of drunken drivers and accidents. We have permitted our sympathy to go with the driver and not with the victim! Driving a car is not a constitutional right. It is a privilege in which the state can lay down rules and regulations to protect all people.

Now we come to another simple cause of accidents and this is going to be a shocker: A lot of people really don't know how to drive a car! The beautiful young girl learns how to drive because her boy friend gave her some instructions. What does he really know? Only what HE knows and that is the maximum of her learning ability. We should make it COMPULSORY for all new drivers to take a course in Driver's Safety Education. Many states are now putting such courses into their secondary school. I have on my desk a book entitled, "Sportsmanlike Driving" published by the American Automobile Association. It discusses such topics as The Automobile and Its Driver, The Best Way to Learn to Drive, The Eyes of a Drive, Physical Fitness and Safety, Reaction Time and the Driver, Good Traffic Habits, City Driving, Driving on the Open Highway, and other important items a good driver should know. There are also many first class private driving schools.

There are many things I like about Hot Rods. One important aspect of the average Hot Rodder is that he knows what it takes to make a car; to use that car to its maximum efficiency; and he respects what it can do. When he speeds, he does it in a legally controlled area. Speed has a definite significance to the Hot Rods.

Way back in the days of the Old West, men carried guns. A gun was a weapon of protection. But it was also something dangerous for one's ego. A slight provocation could end in a gun fight and in death. A nice high powered car gives the driver a certain sense of artificial superiority if he isn't careful about what he does. So what if his car can beat any other car on the highway? If he starts in to show off how fast he is driving, he is tempting Death. It is a good sign that many states are getting tougher in their policy of enforcing and punishing the violators of speed laws. Before you complain just ask yourself this simple question: How would you feel if your were smashed by the speed maniac hitting the road at over ninety miles an hour?

Finally I want to say something about the Pedestrians who can be definite hazards and cause many accidents to cars. The time has come for all communities to put into effect Anti-Jay-Walking ordinances. You are driving at the legal limit and from behind a parked car appears a woman with a package in her hand. What can you do? Jam on your brakes or aim for the parked car? So you smash up and she goes merrily on her way. These people should be given summons and fined and if necessary given a jail sentence. Fairness is fairness no matter who wears the shoe. If we punish automobile drivers to protect the pedestrians then we must also punish them to protect the automobile drivers.

The automobile has helped to make America what it is. Just close your eyes and imagine how we would be if we were still in the horse-and-buggy-age. You shudder when you realize that a ten mile trip in those days was something important. Today you take a 1500 mile trip as though it were nothing.

We can reduce our accidents on the highway of this nation as well as in our city streets. We need a lot of common sense and we must be determined to punish those who are guilty.


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