Everybody who’s gotten behind the wheel of a car is guilty of it.

Somehow, sooner or later, it’s something that just seems to happen time and time again — even to those perfect people out there in this world.

It happened to me as a teenager right out of high school in the mid-1970s.

Talk about an unforgettable experience.

Blame it, in part, on that wicked spring storm that managed to knock out the power to the entire town on that dreadful night so long ago. Because there was no electricity for a few hours, a traffic light at Country Club Lane and Cox Mill Road — just down the street from my Hopkinsville home — had stopped working. The police, always trying to be helpful, took immediate action and placed a standing, four-way stop sign at the dark — and busy — intersection to assist motorists in navigating the dangerous traffic hazard.

As luck would have it, the power got restored just as my car — traveling on Country Club Lane, with only me in it — began approaching the intersection on the way across town to see a movie at the local theater.

Nobody needs to be a genius to figure out what took place in the blink of an eye.

Decades later, the image is still etched in my mind.

There, as clear as day in the near distance, was that beautiful green light that told me to keep coming at slightly less than breakneck speed. Of course, what didn’t catch my eye until it was too late — only because the dimwit behind the wheel decided to look down at the worst possible time to change the radio station — was that stop sign smack in the middle of the road.

Listening to some awesome tunes became the last thing on my mind after my car plowed into the large metal sign. It sailed through the air and came crashing down on my car, smashing the windshield and flattening a front tire. Luckily, though, the distracted driver — ME — walked away from the wreck without a scratch, not to mention a darn good story to tell all those inattentive drivers terrorizing the city streets.

The police officer who rolled up to the accident scene minutes later — presumably to remove the stop sign from the intersection — scratched his head at the pitiful sight of me and my disabled vehicle. Most certainly he was thinking about the paperwork in store for him back at the police station.

“How in the world did you make this great big mess?” he muttered.

Duh…..Maybe it had something to do with me not paying attention to my driving, sir. Well, anyway, that’s the response that the policeman should have heard that night instead of me taking The Fifth.

To this day — whenever my car passes through that intersection — my eyes are always on the road, looking for a stop sign. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Now, impaired drivers — hopped up on alcohol or drugs — are dangerous, for sure.

But without question, distracted drivers represent the biggest threat these days for the driving public. The seriousness of the problem — highlighted every April with Distracted Driving Awareness Month — has only grown by leaps and bounds in this new age of smartphones and texting around the clock.

Think about it. Nobody on the road is ever sure any more about the driver of the vehicle coming toward them. Tell me it’s not scary just to think about the dangerous possibilities.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines distracted driving as “any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system —anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.”

Yes, ladies, it even includes putting on makeup on the way to work, which, incidentally, was just made a crime this year in Ireland.

Each day in the United States, nine people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in motor vehicle accidents linked to a distracted driver, according to the NHTSA.

In 2016 alone, the NHTSA reported that 3,450 lives were lost due to distracted drivers.

Not surprisingly, texting is getting its deserved share of the blame for the problem.

The NHTSA website makes a good case: “Texting is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.”

Close your eyes and try to picture it, folks.

Let’s try harder to be careful out there.

Stay safe and keep those eyes open and always on the road.

It’s where they belong on that drive to anywhere.

ROB DOLLAR was a reporter and editor for the Kentucky New Era for 20 years. A resident of Hopkinsville, he has authored three books on topics of local interest in recent years. He can be reached at theezywriter@yahoo.com.

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