Drivers and walkers: Be aware and be prepared on the roads

Whenever I pass someone on my way to class, I would guess that at least half of them have earbuds in or are on their phones. Whatever they are distracted with, that’s the point: their awareness is lowered.

They aren’t always watching where they’re going or what’s going on around them. I will admit that I’m just as guilty of this. I have sent e-mails, listened to music, texted and talked on the phone while walking to class. Usually it isn’t much of a problem, unless it was that one time that I stepped on a squirrel and that was just not fun for either of us. But since Loras is a pretty consolidated campus, I never have to worry much about crossing the street, at least on the path that I take.

However, if I did, I would definitely want to be a lot more aware of my surroundings by taking out at least one of my earphones and looking up from my phone. I know that a lot of kids park in the Hoffmann or Keane lots, especially if they are commuters and some have to walk to the Vis for music or art classes. Alta Vista and Loras Boulevard are not great roads to cross either, as I’m sure everyone has figured out right now. Loras Boulevard is just one huge hill, and Alta Vista is constantly lined with so many cars that you have to step out into the middle of the road to even see if anyone is coming. And don’t even get me started at their intersection at the top of the hill. I’m honestly surprised there aren’t daily accidents there, because it’s so hard to see if cars are coming up the hill, and that’s not even taking the pedestrians into consideration.

Sharing the road when both drivers and pedestrians are distracted can be really dangerous and I’ve witnessed or been part of way too many close calls. I run with headphones in, and with all of the weird roads and intersections in Dubuque, there’s usually at least one point on my run that a car gets too close for comfort. Paying extra attention when crossing the street is a must, and I’ve gotten into the habit of just assuming that I’ll never get the right of way, even when I’m supposed to. Making that assumption has probably saved me at least a few times already this year.

But walkers, runners and bikers aren’t the only ones that should have to be extra aware when on the roads. Drivers should be just as cautious, if not more. People fly down Alta Vista, often driving smack dab in the middle of the road and having two cars going opposite directions usually results in one swerving to the side to make room. With cars parked on both sides, along with people crossing back and forth from the halls to their cars and their parking lots, drivers should be extra careful and slow when on this street.

Accidents happen in a split second, but repercussions can last a lifetime. Being 30 seconds late to class or work may not make or break your career, but it could potentially save a life. Take the time to slow down, be aware, and be respectful please, however you are using the road.

Of course, this advice doesn’t just have to apply to traffic safety. It can be very beneficial mentally to take out your headphones, appreciate your surroundings and just be in the moment. Too often we are doing five million things at once, and we do not get the opportunity to truly live in the present. In class for instance, it can be too tempting to be on Outlook answering all of your e-mails, shopping for your mom’s birthday present, making sticky note after sticky note and planning out the rest of your day. When you’re doing this, you’re missing out on a great lecture from a professor that took time to prepare it, and could possibly be planning on quizzing you on. It would probably be a good idea to close the laptop, take out an old-fashioned notebook and pay full attention to who is in front of the room. I’ve been making a conscious effort to do that this year, and I will say that putting away my laptop as often as possible has been a key solution. I would suggest you try it too, if you are having trouble paying attention during class.
Being aware of what is happening around physically can therefore be a great help to your mental, psychological and physical safety.

Whether you are on the streets, in the classroom, at a social function, or anywhere else, put away the distractions, look up, and take note of what is going on around you. Don’t let life pass you by – or be taken from you – by distractions that are just not worth it in the long run.

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