Car crashes are unusual animals.
Some incidents are truly hilarious, like the driver of a convertible who honked his horn at an old lady crossing the street. Understandably miffed, she whacked her bag on his bumper, deploying the airbag to his face in the process.
Some crashes are cases of karmic justice, like that Lambo Gallardo driver who tried to show off his ride at an intersection by powering out of it, only to find out his reflexes and skills weren’t anywhere near good enough to control over 550 horsepower. The result? His Gallardo became a rather expensive piece of filling between two other cars… on the opposite lane.
Some, however, are truly tragic. If you’ve been keeping tabs on Facebook, you’d know which one I’m talking about. And now that the furor has abated over the horrendous crash that cost the lives of four teenagers -kids, really-, something has to be said.
There is, in my opinion, more to the tragedy in Ayala Alabang than a joyride gone so very, very wrong… and many of us have the symptoms. It’s more than just mere overconfidence behind the wheel. It’s more alarming than mere youthful exuberance. It’s even more dangerous than drunk driving.
We have forgotten that a car deserves and demands our respect.
There, I said it. Any car, by definition, is a highly complex performance machine, and it deserves to be respected. It doesn’t even matter whether the car in question was a hot new super sports car, a multi-million peso SUV or a mass-market compact car… as was the case here.
It also doesn’t matter that manufacturers spend billions of dollars to make cars safer by developing systems that detect pedestrians, install cruise control functions that maintain a safe distance between the you and the bus ahead, or equip a vehicle with enough airbags to put the Hindenburg to shame. Okay, bad example, but you get the point.
Long experience has taught us that machines need to be treated and used with a lot of respect. This is not a two-way street. Much like a horse will not respect a careless rider, a car will not respect our driving abilities nor will it coddle our inadequacies, faults or bad habits behind the wheel.
We’ve forgotten that driving a car is a major responsibility, both to ourselves and to others on the road. We’ve forgotten that every time we turn the key, we are starting more than just a ride, but a heavy machine that is very capable of harming us or others. Getting behind the wheel needs a degree of maturity and levelheaded-ness that is learned over years of experience, and even then, it’s not guaranteed.
Still, we like to push the limits. Driving like mad men on the highway, cutting left, right and center, blaring our horns loudly for others to get out of our way. We like to show off our brand new, shiny cars to our friends, relatives, or that random cute girl standing on the corner of the street, hoping she’ll notice.
We may get away with it most of the time, perhaps with a close call while texting and driving or having one too many beers at a barkada get-together. Sooner or later though, it will catch up.
Those four teenagers -may they rest in peace- paid a hefty price for the rest of us.
Have we learned the lessons?