I’ll admit it: Before I had kids, I drove like a maniac. Yellow lights meant “floor it” and red lights and stop signs were often optional. I spent my junior year of college living in France and got a job with a cousin of mine driving all over Paris making deliveries. One of his favorite lines was that he’d never get into a car with me without a second pair of underwear.
Not surprisingly, I was pulled over plenty of times and did get into a few accidents, although, amazingly, only one of them was my fault (I was driving down San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley on a gorgeous, sunny day, got distracted by an equally gorgeous girl in an outrageously short skirt, and rear-ended the guy in front of me. I tried to blame the accident on her, but the cop just rolled his eyes). Miraculously, I never killed or injured anyone.
But I still remember where I was when the realization hit me (better a realization than another vehicle) that I had to make some changes. My first child was due in a few weeks and I had responsibilities—people needed me to be alive.
In the years since that little epiphany, I haven’t had a ticket and have been involved in only one accident: Some jerk (maybe a young me) ran a red light and t-boned me, then drove off. My car was totaled and my youngest daughter and I were carted off in an ambulance. In yet another minor miracle, with the exception of my back still being in near constant pain, both of us have fully recovered. Chalk up another victory for seatbelts and sheer luck.
Because two of my three kids are driving and the third is just a few short years away from getting behind the wheel of a car, I’m taking a pledge to be a better driver. I know that’s a phrase that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. But for me, it simply means paying more attention to safety and the basic things I can do to make our roads safer for my kids and yours. So no texting or checking email or using GPS or making phone calls—even if I’m just sitting at a red light. No fishing around on the floor for something I dropped. That’s a lot of Nos.
On the Yes side, I pledge to cut other drivers some slack. The woman who cut in front of me so rudely? The kid who nearly sideswiped me? The old guy who was going 45 in the fast lane? Instead of flipping them off or leaning on the horn, I’ll take a few deep breaths and, like Queen Elsa in Frozen, I’ll just let it go. I can’t control how other people drive, only how I react to it. And sitting behind the wheel of a 2,000+ pound weapon, the potential to do instant, permanent damage is huge.
I invite you to join Progressive and me on September 3rd, 2015, for Drive Safe Today Day. Take the pledge to make the roads safer. Learn more about the initiative by liking Progressive on Facebook and following @Progressive on Twitter. Stay alert, focused and calm while you’re on the road—and help as many people as you can do the same. To paraphrase Smokey Bear (who said, “Only you can prevent forest fires”), only you can make our roads safe. The life you save could be your own—or your child’s.
This post was written in partnership with Progressive Insurance. I have been compensated, but the thoughts and ideas are my own. For additional driving safety tips, check out Progressive’s Drive Safe Today Day program.