ethel’s words

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About 50 years ago, my vehicle was rear-ended by a large (large by standards of those days) pickup truck. My life was altered in ways I would not have dreamed.

One might expect that I would have an aversion to pickup trucks. Well, no. Not at all. But despite my pledge (to myself) that I would not let that rear-end, totally-unexpected, unavoidable by me--collision, intimidate me, I have a moderate phobia about rear-ending. NO, I don’t drive or ride looking backwards; my brain, usually devoid of symmetry perception, transferred my apprehension to BEING a rear-ender, not a rear-endee.

Besides a vicious whiplash, I had a concussion, and a ruptured ear-drum, not discovered until it had developed serious complications. The ear-drum splitting no doubt accounts for the noise as I lost consciousness: the high-pitched whine that an old-fashioned hand saw makes when curved and tapped. (As music was made--familiar, real songs).

As auto collisions go, that one was small, indeed. Still, I ended up with my face paralyzed on one side, loss of hearing in that ear, paralyzed throat, paralyzed lips (one side). Lucky for me, tape recorders (better than wire recorders) had been invented: I found two on the market: Telectro and Wallensak. I bought a Telectro and taught myself to make words with half a mouth.

I learned to not smile, as smiling would pull my face totally to the strong side. So I went my unsmiling way, found a job where I was not on view, but I could talk. I maintained a friendly voice (I thought) in place of a smile. It took some effort and some vigilance. I learned to accept ceaseless pain: friend pain equals “alive”.

I could tell that the new disfigurement of my face was worse to others than to me. (That’s a lot!) Friends would recognize me, but then, seeing my face up close, their faces would distort with shock. One prospective employer said, “Of course you wouldn’t want to meet the public.” So, it’s that bad, I thought. Even worse than I suspected. (I didn’t get that job.)

Yes, this leads somewhere. This observation: I have read countless articles on damage and disability due to diseases of many kinds. I have read hundreds of reports on the damages caused by tobacco and alcohol, respectively. But I think I have not seen any comparable reports of damage done by vehicles. We hear and read lots of data about “accidents and drunkenness” (just under 50%) but we hear nothing of causes of the other 50%+, nor the disabilities resulting. Thus, I am led to believe the former are studies of alcohol drinking, not of automobile harms.

My own experience, so absolutely minor compared to many, has curtailed my social life, especially as I have aged, and deafness is a genuine disability, though until recently it has not qualified as “disabling”.

But worse than all this, much worse, is the maiming by vehicle of babies, toddlers, and kidlets, who live an entire life with disabilities, disfigurements, and pain due to vehicles out-of-control. Death is not absent.

I hope this is not a “poor me” story, though I guess some of that is okay. But it aims to make someone think; it hopes that somebody who has a voice in this society will point out that vehicles are as damaging as alcohol (pretty bad) and as tobacco (I think tobacco itself is not harmful). There are studies that could be done: Easy ways to stay alert; is there any way to avoid those momentary “blanks” (we all have) that can cause accidents; would less speed make a difference? How to train anger control, a necessity professional drivers recognize. (I was a bus driver for a while.)

What DOES cause the 50% of accidents not blamed on alcohol consumption?

Ethel C. Hale