2020 has been an eye-opening year in so many ways! Every one of us has encountered unprecedented challenges; a good many have experienced tragic loss. Without a doubt, the events of the past year will impact how each of us views the future.
In the months since Jim's injury I have become increasingly aware of how vitally import it is to educate and advocate on behalf of vulnerable road users. The statistics are horrifying and continue to become more so. Countless injuries and deaths across our country are preventable. In most cases, the negligent parties are not even held accountable. Even when legal action is taken, justice is seldom served to the degree that is warranted by the seriousness of the offense. The prevailing point of view is little concerned for the rights and safety of road users other than those driving cars, trucks, and SUVs.
As serious as my husband's injuries were, it is our extraordinary good fortune that he has made an incredible recovery. Rather than being confined to a wheelchair, as certainly could have been the case with a spinal fracture, he is able to walk unassisted. He's even back riding a bicycle! Although he was wearing a helmet when he was hit, he sustained a closed head injury. Gratefully, the residual effects are very mild. In light of the potential for a far more devastating outcome, even the ongoing health issues are of lesser concern. By the grace of God, and thanks to excellent medical care, my Jim is a walking (and bicycling) miracle!
Due to our personal experience, I have gained a great deal of insight into the circumstances faced by a huge number of vulnerable road users and their families. It is a heartbreaking travesty that so little is done to protect those on the roads who, for a variety of reasons, are at heightened risk. Only a small number of US states have specific legislation which carries stern penalties for injuring or killing VRUs. And even in those states, the consequences are infrequently enforced to the degree the law has set forth. Far too often, public opinion and our legal system fail to hold drivers responsible for their actions. A commonly held opinion is to assume that the fault lies entirely with those who were not driving a motor vehicle.
This distressing point of view has become the “norm” for many incidents involving pedestrians, bicyclists, and others who's transport or job takes them unprotected onto roadways. I find that attitude of assigning guilt both prejudicial and unethical! Yet, that way of looking at things is seldom questioned. The more research I do, the greater my concern becomes that this mindset is so widely accepted. However, it seemed a far too daunting task to even consider that I could have any role in causing others to question the existing mindset.
Upon further consideration, I came to the conclusion that this is far too important of an undertaking to accomplish by any means other than a grassroots, one-on-one approach! I am only one voice, but I am deeply committed to using it to influence others. Out of that commitment has come this blog, and my resolutions as we head into a new year. It's my way of choosing to use the difficult things we have been through to try to make a difference for others.
In my experience, a good many people are completely unaware of the injustice that is so prevalent. When actually presented with the need and the inequality of the situation, I believe there are many citizens who would choose to support justice and respect for vulnerable road users. A single voice can become many!
I am resolved! I refuse to let helplessness and hopelessness steal my voice! It was unbelievably frustrating to be handed a police report filled with insufficient information and inconsistencies. It was doubly hurtful, because nothing written there ever came up for further review. Apparently, the officer failed to investigate the driver's cell phone usage and/or confirm his speed limit at the time of the incident. And we are not aware of that having been looked into more closely at any point. We never received a follow up call from the police department, or from any other entity, to check on the extent of Jim's injuries. There was no mention in the local news of the life-threatening collision. Beyond our circle of personal friends, I felt that we had been completely discarded. It was as if what my husband was enduring wasn't worth anyone else's time or attention.
I am resolved! I deny anger the right to sabotage my words! Of course I have feelings of outrage. But striking out in anger is most often destructive, and the situation we've lived through has been devastating enough without allowing anger to color my words and hurt my “cause”. Although the emotions are legitimate, speaking or writing from that perspective is not going to prove persuasive. Ranting may draw attention, but I'm convinced the reader ends up assuming the message has been blown out of proportion and dismissing it. My goal is to inform, not inflame, about the situation and encourage people to take part in bringing about change.
I am resolved! I reject misplaced feelings of guilt that would silence my message! The reality is, my husband survived and has experienced a wonderful recovery. It's human nature for me to ask “why were we spared” when so many others have suffered far worse! Wives and children and parents have lost loved ones forever, while we enjoy the daily blessings that we do. Sometimes I question the appropriateness of sharing our experience.
However, when I take an honest look deep down inside I recognize that this may be part of why Jim's life was spared. Using my voice for those who have no voice..... Please add your voice to mine, and let's determine to make a difference together!!