EDITOR'S COLUMN | Drive carefully; our lives are in your hands

My first car was a white, 1983 Chevy S-10 pickup. I paid $1,500 for it and that was too much.

It was a heap.

It leaked and burned oil so furiously that it seems now I spent as much time filling the oil reservoir as I did the fuel tank. The worst offender was right above the exhaust manifold, which resulted in most of the oil burning off before reaching the ground, but it was still something of a rolling version of the Exxon Valdez.

The leak did have its uses, however — as soon as the smoking stopped, I knew it was time to fill her up.

Admittedly, as a 16-year-old kid I wasn’t too easy on the ol’ gal. I spent more time hot-rodding than I did with maintenance, and my truck paid the price. To say I rounded her corners would be kind.

Hard lessons were learned, and unfortunately, some of them at the expense of other drivers. Today, armed with the infinite power of retrospect, I shudder at the memory and marvel that the only casualties were a few fenders and my tender pride. My poor victims all survived.

Being in the news business, regular reminders of those days are all too common and Thursday was no exception. I reported on two South Whidbey car accidents. Thankfully no one was killed, but two people — one from each incident — were taken to the hospital.

Responding to such emergencies is always a bit unnerving. Along with not knowing just what you’ll see, and I have a few images I would like to forget, in a small community there is a chance you’ll know the people involved.

How our island’s first responders cope, I’ll never know, but they have earned my respect and my thanks.

They have been an especially busy bunch this year. South Whidbey Fire/EMS officials report the fire district alone responded to 180 calls in January — about 30 more than average.

The vast majority of those ranged from fire and medical calls to marine and cat-in-tree incidents, but too many were car accidents. Except for a few rare cases — incidentally one of Thursday’s two — car accidents are almost always avoidable. They are the result of moments of inattention, poor judgement, or just plain recklessness.

May we all take a moment this week before starting our vehicles to ponder our responsibility as drivers and weigh the consequences of our actions behind the wheel.

May the vision of a beat-up, old and smoking Chevy pickup be your reminder.

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