One night while I was working late, at about 10:00 pm an ambulance screamed up Route 41, past the shop. Being in such close proximately to Bayfront Hospital, this is not an odd occurrence. What was odd was that very shortly after, the same or another ambulance made the right off of Olympia onto 41 with lights on but without a siren. Usually, that rig would continue down Olympia towards the hospital, not up 41. I’m sure that we have all had that “feeling” when something was off. Because of my past when I was not only a “first aider” but also a first responder with my wrecker for all “suspicious” accidents and all death by auto calls, I’ve learned to pay close attention to those “off” feelings. Watching a rig pass by with lights and no siren can be good or bad news. The injured are either stable or not with us anymore. The next thing that I heard was the wop-wop-wop of a helicopter’s main rotor, except this time there was a queer echo until I realized that there were two choppers that had landed in the empty lot that used to be the City Market Place. Being inquisitive I had to follow these sounds and found myself watching a team transfer a patient from one rig to the copter. Everything was so slow and controlled that I really thought that this was a training exercise. Imagine my shock and surprise when I passed a destroyed vehicle on the top of the bridge, and I knew why there was no rush anymore.
I’ve been in this business for over 42 years, and in those 42 years, I’ve had first-hand experiences with broken vehicles. Vehicles that were so UN-SAFE that they should have been taken off of the road! Accidents are caused by so many contributing factors, some result in bruised pride, and some result in horrific deaths. Like anyone else that is in contact with carnage, our minds automatically protect us by surrounding us with a kind of force field. The outside world thinks that we are insensitive or hard, but take it from me, those images never leave us. But as they say in the movies “life goes on”.
While researching for this article the most recent facts that were available were already four years old. This is not the first time I have written on this subject, and while the numbers have changed the results are always the same.
In 2010 there were 2262 fatal accidents in Florida. 2445 people lost their lives in those accidents. Amazingly to most folks only 660 of those fatalities were alcohol-related. 487 of those deaths were pedestrians. The breakdown of these accidents was as follows: 868 were multi-vehicular collisions, 562 were collisions with non-motorists. 550 were collisions with fixed objects, and 46 were collisions with non-fixed objects. 202 were overturned or single vehicle non-collision accidents and 34 were unexplained non-collision accidents. You must take into consideration that these numbers only represent fatal accidents, not all accidents.
Information from various sites which were state sites, attorney’s sites, and general information sites rated the cause of all accidents as such:
If you pay attention to the bold information it means this. In the year 2010 at least 202 fatal accidents were caused by poorly maintained vehicles. According to AA1CAR.com, 13% of all accidents are caused by defective and/or poorly maintained vehicles. Most cited as major points of failure were brakes first (which even surprised me), tires second, steering and suspension, and roadway design. I would like to add another two categories, belts and hoses and heating and air conditioning. Tire issues are pretty much self-explanatory, and any tire with less than 2/32 of tread left is unsafe and needs to be replaced. Any time an insistent wobble or vibration appears in the steering wheel with a hard pull usually means that a tire is beginning to fail internally. Brakes are sometimes a little harder to “feel”. Sticking calipers or partially blocked brake hoses can cause a drag that can actually boil your brake fluid causing a sort of embolism in the hydraulics which can result in the total loss of your brake pedal without warning. So can ignoring that annoying squeaking or vibration when stopping. This is a sign of things that are not right. Not having your suspension checked at least once a year can find faults with tie rod ends and ball joints. If you have ever passed a vehicle with one wheel facing left and the other facing right rest assured that a bad tie rod was the culprit. Breaking a ball joint looks like a vehicle trying to drive on the inside of its tire.
As most vehicles have already switched over to single serpentine belts, losing a belt not only will kill your battery or overheat your engine but consider driving at 75 mph on Rte. 75 and suddenly losing your power steering. Or consider this, driving along when all of a sudden this violent downpour happens and your entire windshield just totally fogs up and distorts your vision. A vehicle that has faulty air conditioning and defrosting capabilities reduces you to drive one-handed and wipe the inside of the windshield with your free hand. Not entirely having complete control of your vehicle, is it?
So to be completely blunt and to the point, I say this: Not maintaining your vehicle will cause you to spend more on repairs, cost you for rental vehicles, and loss of time for fun or work, and it may cost you or someone else their life!
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