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Close call at Askew Bridge

August 10, 2013 will probably not be long remembered by most Iowans even though it marked the most deadly day on the state’s highways in recent years. Eight people were killed in motor vehicle accidents last Saturday.

Although an Iowa Highway Patrol spokesperson said there was no common link among the crashes two certainly came close. Those two crashes resulted in five of the fatalities because someone reportedly ran a stop sign. All five of the victims were in the vehicles that did not blow through the stop signs.

Those two collisions can’t help but remind me how fragile life really is. In fact, nearly every time one gets in a motor vehicle he or she is actually tossing the dice in what could be a deadly game. Careful driving is the best answer but it is not always fool proof.

There are a few drivers who seem to throw caution to the wind. They feel a couple of seconds saved by not stopping at a stop sign is more important than the fact that it could be a fatal mistake.

Last Friday I was returning from Ames after renewing my drivers license. Traveling south on R70 just a couple miles north of Cambridge I rounded the bend leading to Askew Bridge. I could see a cloud of dust rising from a pickup heading east on 290th Street. It was evident that whoever was driving the vehicle had no intention of stopping at the stop sign. I hit my brakes just in time to avoid a collision. The truck shot out onto the blacktop and headed north with tires burning.

As I watched the white pickup quickly disappear up the highway I couldn’t help but think how close I had just come to going either to the hospital or the morgue. Strangely enough, it marked the second time I had barely avoided hitting someone cruising through that stop sign in less than a month. Even stranger is the fact that my wife had a similar experience at the same intersection this summer.

I imagine the Iowa Department of Transportation’s answer is install flashing yellow lights at the intersection. Not that it will make any difference to the kind of drivers who regularly run stop signs. Then too, that won’t happen until at least two or three fatal accidents take place.

As my wife will certainly point out I am not the best driver on the road. I have been known to nudge over the speed limit on more that one occasion. I also must plead guilty to the fact that I often complain about the driving capabilities of others on the road.

But I never fail to stop at a stop sign. It just isn’t worth it. It’s like passing on a hill or driving the wrong way on a one-way street. The odds are not in your favor. Something else to keep in mind is that school will soon be starting and that makes obeying the law that much more important. Many lives depend on how we drive. Let’s do it responsibly.

(Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He lives near Cambridge.)

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