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Speak up, slow down

In July of 2021, some friends and I were setting out on a road trip up to spend a few days at a local town festival before summer ended. My junior year at SUNY Oneonta College was quickly approaching, and I was not ready for the summer fun to end. This weekend we had planned was going to be filled with food, fun, and festivities. The car ride to our destination was almost six hours. At least, that’s what Google Maps said.

Two hours passed, and everyone in the vehicle started getting antsy. Who wouldn’t? We were excited, looking forward to a weekend with a full itinerary. The drive was long, and there were points where we would not see a soul for some time. My friend was driving, and I was a passenger along with two of our other friends. As we were chatting away, I noticed a speed limit sign, which read sixty-five MPH. I glanced over at the speedometer. We were traveling at about sixty-eight MPH. My friend kept us at our current speed, and I did not say anything.

Another half-hour passed, and the ride was getting unbearable. My friends started to bicker, we were tired, hungry, and still nowhere close to our destination. To make matters worse, my friend in the passenger seat who had the idea for us to go on this trip was complaining about how we would miss the first night if we didn’t get there soon. After that comment, my friend that was driving muttered “not if I can help it.”

The next thing I knew, he had pressed down on the gas, and we felt like we were flying, now going well over ninety MPH in a sixty-five. Still, we were alone. We had not seen many other vehicles on the roadway all day. I could feel my nerves creating butterflies in the pit of my stomach. I felt fear. I envisioned every possible scenario that can happen with this risky behavior. Do I say something? Will my friends make fun of me for being worried? I wasn’t sure. Hey, on the bright side…we’re shaving off some time to make it to our destination faster, right? Well, not necessarily.

My heart dropped as I saw the blue and red lights swirling behind us in the rearview mirrors. The vibe in the car immediately changed. We were all fearful, worried, and feeling a bit guilty for pushing the speed limit. The driver panicked and swerved the car, narrowly avoiding hitting the highway barrier before the car zoomed straight into a ditch. He slammed on the brakes as everyone jolted in their seats. I made sure everyone was okay before nervously turning my head and seeing the officer outside my friend’s car, standing crooked due to being half in the ditch. He asked us to step out of the vehicle, and one by one we did just that. He asked, “What in your right mind could have made you think going over ninety was okay?” We said nothing. Lesson = learned.

After the fact, so many thoughts ran through my head. I knew that speeding was dangerous, yet I did not speak up to let my friend know he needed to slow down. Luckily, no one was hurt – this time. That moment was one of the scariest I have ever experienced. After the crash, I was nervous to be in a car for a little while. It did, however, put into perspective how speeding can be so dangerous, even on a deserted road with no one nearby. Take it from me…there is no need for speed. ALWAYS be an advocate for safety in a vehicle, whether you are the driver or a passenger.

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