Minivans of Death

Posted: January 8, 2011 in Run, Training
Tags: ,
  • Long Run (click to see stats)
  • 18.48k (1:40:20)
  • Avg. Heart Rate = 152 bpm
  • Max. Heart Rate = 164 bpm
  • Avg. Pace = 5:25 /km
  • Max. Pace = 4:23 /km
  • Calories = 1878
  • · Temp = -6º
  • SOTD: ‘Night of a 1000 Stars’ by Phil & Friends

When you know your support team really appreciates what you do…

Great run today.  Not many hills (as was the initial plan), but a rare opportunity to run a new route starting from my families home in Niagara Falls where breakfast and hot chocolate immediately followed.

I did lots of thinking today (which is usually the case when I run long), and I have a pet peeve to get off my chest.

I was almost plowed over this morning by some jackass in a minivan.  Unfortunately, this is an all too common experience.  Given the number of close calls I’ve had while out running, well, let’s just say I make for some pretty decent odds down at the local off-track betting agency.  This would not be a very dignified way for a budding wannabe triathlete to leave this world – run over by an unabashed suburban breeder.  Great!  But given the amount of minivans, SUV’s, recreation vehicles, whatever, on the road these days – not to mention the influx of jag-offs who drive them – the chances of my meeting my ultimate demise under the wheels of a Dodge Grand Caravan are increasing rapidly.  Despite the fact that I always wear a reflective vest and a blinking strobe light that will burn out your retinas if you should ever happen to stare directly into it (you could probably spot me from outer space), getting run over is a nearly daily occurrence.

Even more than minivans themselves, I hate the people who drive them. Their priorities in life are just all FUBAR. The driver who nearly mowed me down today wasn’t even the remotest bit aware of my presence or proximity to his vehicle as he hurtled it down the road blindly; possibly due to the fact that he appeared to be fidgeting with the controls on his driver’s cockpit like an astronaut after a double espresso. Looking back on it, I would have had more faith in the driver had I seen a chimpanzee behind the wheel.  But who would ever really be surprised at this idiot’s driving since your basic minivan on sale nowadays comes equipped with interior luxuries like huge leather seats with lightning-quick seat warmers, individual climate control, DVD player, satellite radio, 10” hi-definition color television, five-CD disc changer, cell phone power cutlets, “conversation mirror” (to facilitate chats with backseat passengers), voice-activated navigation system and, of course, more beverage holders than you could shake a frozen Frappuccino at.  Hell, throw in a wet bar and shower massage and I foresee a future where no one will ever have to leave their vehicles again.

But how safe is all this for us runners?  I mean, whose bright idea was it to install a mirror whose sole purpose is to shift the driver’s gaze from where it should be – ON THE ROAD! Who’s doing the actual driving with all this activity and conversation going on? Sure the DVD player probably helps take the edge off long road trips, but how many accidents could have been avoided if the driver wasn’t glued to Judge Judy at the time? Sure the navigation system is pretty handy in that it can locate the five nearest Chinese restaurants from any point in continental North America, but it will also remind you of your noon dental appointment and that you still need to pick up the cats anti-fungal cream before the vet closes at six o’clock.  Cool?  Absolutely!  But also how utterly distracting from the important task at hand – DRIVING – not to mention looking out for us runners in the process.

I’m not surprised then that this middle-aged moolyak didn’t even see me, what with him yammering on the cell phone, checking his email, programming his onboard appointment log, channel-surfing for last nights hockey scores on the SIRIUS satellite radio; all the while trying to cook breakfast on the fold away hotplate in the dashboard. This idiot didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in Hell at seeing me lumbering along in the bike lane like a bloated woodchuck as he was so busy pushing buttons like a lab rat on amphetamines.  Thank you luxury driving!

Now, considering that middle-aged parents have enough to deal with already that they have the attention span of a coma patient, why then are we designing automobiles to have so many bells and whistles that you literally have to be a military test pilot to operate them? That’s like pouring water on a drowning man.   I think in the name of safety, all models of minivans and SUV’s should also come equipped with shackles on the steering wheel to lock down the driver’s hands in place. I also wouldn’t be opposed to the idea of industrial strength toothpicks to prop open their eye lids either.  But why stop there? Instead of seat warmers, there should be miniature electrodes that administer random electric shocks directly to the driver’s genitalia in order to keep them wide awake and focused despite all the distraction and confusion.  That’ll learn ‘um good.

Basically, minivans are becoming more like our living rooms in that driving affords you no more effort than operating your television remote control from your BARCO lounger.  I can understand the desire to be comfortable and relaxed while out doing all the errands that are commonly associated with maintaining a family in today’s fast-paced society, but if you think some idiot savant with a cell phone prevents a serious hazard on the road, just imagine how deadly he’ll be while also Googling recipes for Eggplant Parmesan on the Internet!  There has been ample evidence provided that the general public already pays far too little attention to the road as it is.  Driver distractions, such as ordinary low-tech basics as eating, chatting with passengers, and fiddling with the radio – account for nearly 80% of vehicular crack-ups.  Even just recently, the ‘British Medical Journal’ added that even gabbing on a cell phone (even the hands-free variety) quadruples your risk of getting into an accident requiring the jaws-of-life and a free trip to the hospital.  Given all this information supporting the easy distraction of automobile drivers and the need for more focused attention; who designed these mobile death traps – Satan?

But if the fancy reflective vests and blinky lights don’t work, what else can a runner do to avoid becoming the latest headline in the Obituary column?

  1. Anticipate that drivers cannot see you and be prepared to leap to safety if necessary.
  2. Do not run against traffic around blind corners.
  3. Wear your reflective vest in the daylight as well.  Hey, and why not?
  4. When motorists do go out of there way to either slow down or move over enough to allow you safe passage, give them a friendly wave as a ‘thank you’ as they pass by.  I feel this encourages the whole ‘Share the Road’ philosophy and 90% of the time I will even get a little wave back from the driver.
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