Thursday, February 02, 2006

When we get behind the wheel, what do we teach our children?

Right now in our jurisdiction, to be cautious, we must look both ways before starting into an intersection on a green light. It seems that people here have a penchant for running the red light well into it. The same is true for those turning left who are left hanging in the intersection because late amber light runners speed up instead of stopping.

Since I do a fair amount of driving around for business purposes, I see a lot of collisions due to individuals running reds and ambers, and have had a number of close calls if it had not been for me waiting to look both ways for the "all clear".

My dad was hit by one such fellow on Monday. Fortunately, it looks as though he is going to be okay, but his car is a write-off. The fellow had driven right through the red light long after it had changed. Please pray for them that they suffer no long term pain from their accident!

When we get behind the wheel, with our kids in the car or not, do we realize that our actions have consequences? Do we recognize the awesome responsibility that we have when we are in control of 4,000 pounds of hurtling steal, aluminium, and plastic? And, the more power that our 4,000 pounds of steal, aluminium, and plastic has, do we use it responsibly or do we use it to hurl ourselves around with disregard for others?

There are a number of times where we have broached the subject of being faithful to the "little things" in our lives. There is a link below to a blog search will bring those blog posts up.

Driving is one such activity where the "little things" are so very important. In my opinion, it is in the car, where we can live the illusion of being isolated - almost indestructible - from everyone else, that some of our deepest seated strengths and weaknesses/wounds can show through.

Here are some common driving situations that can demonstrate where our heart is truly at:

  • When someone uses their turn signal to change lanes do we slow a bit to allow them in or do we speed up to squeeze them out?
  • Do we use our turn signal indicator as a bully tactic to push our way into an opening by not giving the other driver a bit of time to make their own mind up?
  • Do we hit the gas when the intersection control light turns amber/yellow?
  • Do we run reds, especially on left turns?
  • Do we speed through school zones (some jurisdictions have them, some don't)?
  • Do we turn in front of an oncoming car to get in front of them despite the fact that there are no more cars behind them?
  • Do we speed?
  • Do we look at our police officers and bylaw enforcement officers as "the enemy"?
  • Do we offer a negative play by play of traffic and our frustrations with other people's driving habits when family is with us in the vehicle?
  • Do we let the sun go down on our anger and language while we are in the vehicle (Ephesians 4:26)?
  • Have I taken the time to get to know the performance characteristics of my current vehicle on dry or wet pavement, gravel/dirt roads, snow covered or icy roads, in any type of inclement weather?
  • Do I know the outer limits of my vehicle's performance in turns and on various grades?

These are just some of the questions we can ask ourselves about our driving habits. I can remember one of my spiritual directors telling me that my relationships with others around me are a good reflection of my relationship with God.

I believe that our driving habits are also a facet of that piece of wisdom. Our call as Christians, is to live the Gospel of Love, to offer ourselves as witnesses to that love, to the Father's Love made visible in Jesus Christ.

When we get behind the wheel of a vehicle, that call does not diminish, nor can it be set aside. We must weigh our actions, that is our thoughts, words, and deeds against the responsibility of that call to Love laid upon our shoulders by Jesus Christ in the Golden Rule that is given to us in all three Gospels: Matthew 22:34-39, Mark 12:28-31, and Luke 10:25-27:

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself. Luke 10:27


We must do unto others as we would have them do unto us! Matthew 7:12.

For those of us with children, we must remember that our children are very observant. They can see, hear, and experience what happens to our demeanor, behaviour and spirit when we get behind the wheel. This goes for both how we drive and how we react to other's driving habits. There is a significantly long period of time for their experiences of us behind the wheel to take root before they are given the responsibility to drive! How can we expect our children to drive with due care, attention, and great responsibility if we have not done the same for them all those years?

And finally, as Christians we recognize that there is a spiritual dimension to everything, and I mean everything that happens in our life by our own doing or by others (Ephesians 6:12). This begs the question: what spirit or spirits do we cooperate with when we are driving?

Prayer: Father, bless us with Your peace and gentleness when we are driving. Help us to be stewards of Your grace on our roads. Instill in us Your spirit of forgiveness and kindness.

Thank You Father for the gift of the ability to move about freely with our vehicles. Help us to choose our vehicles responsibly, help us to be mindful of our impact on the environment, and help us to form our driving habits accordingly.

Here are some common vehicle weights (approximate) in pounds/kilograms by (class) :

  • Ford Focus Sedan: 2,564/1,164 (Subcompact)
  • Ford Focus Wagon: 2,707/1,228 (Subcompact)
  • Ford Contour: 2,770/1,257 (Compact)
  • Ford Taurus: 3,500/1,588 (Mid-Size)
  • Ford Crown Victoria: 3,800/1,724 (Large)
  • Chrysler 300C: ~3,921/1,778 (Hemi & AWD)
  • Chrysler Caravan: 4,183/1,898 (Minivan)
  • Jeep Liberty: 4,011/1,819 (SUV Compact)
  • Chrysler Pacifica: 4,337/1,967 (SUV Midsize)
  • Chevrolet Suburban: 5,219/2,368 (SUV Large)

2,000 pounds is 1 ton, so some of the larger sedans and most SUVs approach or pass the 2 ton weight mark! Makes the minivan class look like a misnomer eh? ;)

These are the base weights of the vehicles and do not reflect the actual weight of the vehicle when loaded:

  • Gas: ~150-250 lbs depending on class
  • People: 4 x 175 lbs is 700 lbs
  • Luggage: 150 lbs+
  • Towing capacity: 500 lbs to 10,000 lbs depending on class

We must be mindful of our vehicle's weight capacities and limits. There are some vehicles being sold today that exceed their allowable Gross Vehicle Weight with minimal people and luggage load and we are responsible to know that!

By the way, a recent study has shown that buying an SUV for our children's safety is a myth. One of the stats is especially important when driving an SUV: the higher centre of gravity leads to a significant increase in roll-overs. In a roll-over, children are THREE TIMES more likely to be injured or killed!

From the CBC online article SUVs no safer than cars for kids: U.S. study:

Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. children between 2 and 14, according to State Farm's website.

Wow! As a protective husband and father, this thought brings a whole new meaning to having the family in the car and my responsibilities to them and other people's families!

Pacis navigatio (Peaceful voyage),


Blog search: Little Things

CBC online article "SUVs no safer than cars for kids: U.S. study"

An excellent article on merging: Highway Driving Etiquette

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