Take your time, drive carefully

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    Every time I walk out to the parking lot, I get a nervous pang in my side at the thought of someone hitting my car. Call it paranoia or the bitter experience of someone whose car has been hit eight times, but I simply don’t trust most of the general population to drive, back up or park appropriately.And let’s be honest – my fears are probably not all that unfounded.

    There’s the soccer mom who backs up her mini-van at lightning speed to get her troops to practice on time. Then there’s the 16-year-old who either thinks those four-way stops are suggestions or simply sees them as less important than the life-or-death cell phone conversation they’re having.

    I could go on, but you get the idea. People forget they’re still driving when they hit the parking lot and consequently, neglect to focus on the people, cars and obstacles around them.

    It all began when my high school classmate pulled out from a parking lot after pausing at the stop sign. She swears she looked both ways, but nevertheless she plowed into the side of my car.

    At this point I was still naive and attributed her misjudgment as an exception.

    So I kept driving with confidence that everyone, or at least most people, followed the precedence of the “10 and 2” steering wheel position and looked both ways – more than once – before pulling out, or backing up.

    Then it happened again.

    I was teaching ballet, and one of my students’ moms backed into my car.

    “It’s been a crazy day,” she explained apologetically. “I just didn’t notice it back there.”

    I guess a white car could blend into the background if it were snowing, but I’m fairly certain it wasn’t. If she, like so many others, would have taken more time to look before backing up, she might have noticed my vehicle blocking her path.

    Still, not everyone on the road is dealing with the stress of work and kids, and I figured there must be some who cruise through parking lots and cul-de-sacs at the 5-mph suggested speed.

    That was until the fateful garbage truck incident.

    I walked out the front door and there was one of those green, monster-sized trucks, stopped inches from my car. The driver was standing nearby, examining the remnants of my car’s side and back panels. The car’s body looked as if it had been peeled off as successfully as one would hope to peel an apple.

    The truck driver assured me his company would take care of it. He said he took the corner too close and couldn’t see it from the driver’s side.

    “No kidding,” I thought.

    I wish I could say people have heard my public complaints about poor parking lot skills. Apparently, they weren’t listening because I’ve had people back into my car, rear-end my car, back into the other side of my car and sideswipe it since then.

    Granted, I’m probably dealing with a spell of bad luck but that doesn’t mean my situation is completely out of the ordinary.

    People drive over the speed limit, neglect to use blinkers and talk on their phones on the road, and while these would be great behaviors to change, my goal is much smaller and more feasible.

    When you enter a parking lot or get in a car to leave the parking lot, please drive with as much, or maybe even more, awareness as you would on the road.

    Those initial minutes in your vehicle are great to finish breakfast, add some mascara, or, as I have seen some men do, finish shaving with that electrical razor.

    However, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes were caused by some form of driver inattention. So for the sake of your insurance rate and the cars of others, take five more minutes to get ready in the morning and then check your mirrors and blind spots when backing up. And if you could, drive carefully when leaving the parking lot, too.

    If you’re entering a parking lot, slow down. And if you’ll stop at all those silly parking lot stop signs, your chances of hitting another car, trash can, cement block or decorative tree will decrease immensely.

    And until I can trust you to thoroughly implement this advice, I’ll continue parking and driving with extra caution and maybe even consider moving to a big city where I can rely on public transit when I graduate.

    News editor Kathleen Thurber is a news-editorial journalism major from Colorado Springs, Colo.

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