It All Happened So Fast
Plain Truth Magazine
November-December 1984
Volume: Vol 49, No.10
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It All Happened So Fast
Norman L Shoaf  

You can avoid accidents! We explain how in this vital article.

   THE LAST thing I saw before the crash was a moving orange blur in the corner of my left eye as I reached the intersection.
   My last thought was: He can't do that — he has to stop. I have the green light!
   Before I realized what was happening, my car slammed into the side of the other car broadside.

It All Happened So Fast

   I didn't even have time to try to hit the brakes. The collision folded my compact car.
   My head hit the windshield as I was thrown forward and then back into my seat. I saw the glass shatter, and then I saw nothing but red as blood gushed from my face.
   Hitting the glass opened a jagged gash in the middle of my forehead and tore away part of my left eyelid. The eyelid required 15 stitches to close and plastic surgery to restore. A quarter of an inch lower and the glass would have gouged my eye out. Dozens of tiny bits of glass were imbedded in my face and scalp.
   I don't know to this day what happened to smash my left wrist. The unusual break required the surgical insertion of a metal pin to hold the bones together. The pin has since been removed, and I have nearly all the use of the hand.
   Fortunately, no one in the other car was injured, though both cars were irreparably damaged. As I write now, a little more than four months later, the damages and medical bills have already amounted to more than $10,000, and medical visits, filling out forms and answering investigators' questions have consumed a disproportionate amount of time.
   Who would have thought? It was a clear, warm Sunday afternoon. Traffic was light. I was en route to play in my regular soccer match, just like so many times before, and suddenly it happened!
   It was an accident.

An Accident-prone World

   We've all heard the statistics and stories about the toll accidents take personally and monetarily.
   While researching this article I've waded through grisly accounts of how carelessness, machinery malfunctions, substance abuse and lack of caution have caused injury, death and financial loss.
   In the United States, for example, the National Safety Council estimated that 90,000 people were killed by accident. in 1983, with auto accidents accounting for nearly half the total. Disabling accidents numbered 8.5 million, including 330,000 that caused some degree of permanent impairment, ranging from partial loss of use of a finger to blindness or complete crippling. The bill for these tragedies? About $91,300,000,000.
   Accidents are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, exceeded only by heart disease, cancer and strokes, and are the No. 1 cause of death among people aged 1 to 38.
   Think of it! While one is reading this article, four people will be killed and about 340 will suffer a disabling injury. On the average, 11 accidental deaths and about 1,030 disabling injuries occur every hour during the year.
   We live, it would seem, in a very accident-prone world. But what is an accident?
   An accident, in basic terms, can be defined as a mistake, an unplanned and unexpected occurrence" Its victim or victims do not consciously plan an automobile wreck, a crippling injury on the job or a destructive fire. Otherwise these events wouldn't be accidents.
   I'm sure others who have been involved in serious accidents have faced the same questions that haunted me after my car crash: Why me? Why now? If only I had hesitated five more seconds somewhere — if only I had turned down a different street, if only I had seen it coming...
   But all the after-the-fact reflection doesn't change anything. The accident did happen.
   But the connotation associated with the word accident can shroud a most important truth: There is a cause for every effect.

Effects and Causes

   When we hear the term accident we somehow tend to assume that the event described "just happened" — that there was no reason for it and no way to stop it. Logically, this cannot be the case.
   Consider: Traffic mishaps occur because traffic laws are broken, signals malfunction or driving conditions are poor. Drownings take place because people don't know how to swim or because they don't judge risks correctly. Electrocutions happen because people don't take proper precautions, because they aren't observant enough, or because equipment is poorly maintained.
   I vividly remember the case of a 3-year-old who, left unattended by parents and older siblings, tumbled down a flight of concrete stairs and suffered a deep head cut that required several stitches. The wound left a scar that this man carries with him to this day, more than 20 years later. The accident occurred because of lack of supervision of a toddler.
   There is a cause for every effect, whether or not we are conscious of each cause.
   But when we over look — or refuse to seethe causes operating in various events, the "accident" explanation seems to remove responsibility from us. This course has led humanity as a whole to avoid admitting and changing the real causes of many of the most pressing problems facing not only individuals, but the world.
   And so life on earth can now be ended in an "accidental" nuclear holocaust, as if no identifiable and preventable chain of events led us to this point!
   Sure, some events are bound to happen unexpectedly. Lightning may strike an unsuspecting person in an open field. A cook's knife may slip and cut his hand. But there was a definite cause for the event in each case.
   The point is this: If we force ourselves to become more sensitive to risks and potential dangers, we can make ourselves much less accident-prone. We can stay out of open fields during threatening storms. We can pay closer attention when using knives, and make sure we use them only as they are intended to be used.
   There are reasons why elevated hotel walkways collapse , why planes crash, why infant poisonings occur. There are reasons why sickening automobile accidents like mine occur — why thousands of people suffer painful physical and financial losses every year — even if we don't — or don't want to — figure those reasons out and face them.
   What we are interested in is how to avoid the consequences of wrong actions. Simply put, to deal with effects, we must deal with causes.

Avoiding Accidents

   The basic rules for avoiding accidents are really painfully (or should I say painlessly?) simple:
    Don't take dangerous risks.
   Use proper equipment, for instance, if you go on a camping or hiking activity and make sure you know what you're doing before you go. When lifting weights, use correct lifting techniques, and don't try to lift more weight than you can handle. Find out about water conditions or possible hazards before going swimming, and don't swim alone.
   Weigh all the alternatives and don't jump into any situation unprepared. Use common sense, whether while driving, climbing a ladder, working with chemicals, running machinery or crossing the street.
   Take all the precautions you can. When in an automobile, wear a seat belt. When my auto accident occurred, I wasn't wearing one! Maybe you think you are driving only a few blocks and there won't be much traffic. Besides, you may reason, it's bothersome to remember to put seat belts on and wear them, and an accident isn't going to occur anyway. You've heard all the excuses, and may have been making them yourself. I did.
   Some nations and certain states in the United States have passed laws making it an offense subject to fine not to wear a seat belt while driving. We say more power to them. We wish stricter auto safety laws could be established and enforced overall, regardless of the cost opponents claim such precautions would incur.
   You only have to meet a windshield headfirst once to become acutely aware of the absolute need for safety precautions. The cost in equipment or momentary inconvenience is nothing compared to the misery that can come from any type of accident.
    Remove hazards when you see them, and get in the habit of not creating them.
   I wish visibility had been clearer on my left side before I decided to proceed through the intersection, but my view was largely blocked by a tall fence. It was hard to tell anything was coming until it was too late.
   Be aware of hazards and work to neutralize them. At home, don't leave children's toys on steps. Light stairwells. Wear goggles at work when required. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention IS worth a pound of cure. "
    Stay alert at all times.
   Above all, concentrate on what you are doing while you are doing it. Don't drive when you are tired or drowsy.
   Never dull your sense of judgment with alcohol or drugs, especially before driving. It's frightening to think how many cars around you on the road are being "controlled" by drunk drivers. Drinking is a factor in at least half of auto-accident fatalities.
   A large number of job-related accidents occur because workers are under the influence of various substances. Even common, over-the-counter cold remedies can make you less than fully alert and unready for emergency situations.
   Don't work with machinery or attempt tasks that demand much attention if you are depressed, angry or concentrating on something else. It only takes a second for a crippling accident to occur.
    Be prepared for the unexpected.
   Despite the most elaborate precautions, unfortunate mishaps will occasionally occur. This is not an excuse for throwing caution to the wind and deciding not to take any safety precautions at all.
   I knew a man who refused to wear safety belts while driving because, he said, he feared being trapped in the car after an accident. It was a poor excuse — an unrealistic fear, given the odds. Take it from me — I'd rather remain in the car than go through the windshield. The more you can do, the more you reduce the risks.
   But accidents may still occur. That's why we call them accidents.
   And realize this: There is a whole realm of "accidents" precipitated by powerful forces to which we humans can be totally oblivious.

Spirit World at Work

   The Bible tells us that, at present, evil spirit forces rule this world. The ancient patriarch Job, to his dismay, learned this the hard way. The book of the Bible bearing his name tells how all Job's possessions were destroyed or swept away and his children killed, seemingly through a series of inexplicable, chance happenings. But the Bible reveals, even in this case, cause and effect. Satan himself was the cause of these "accidents."
   That same Satan is still operating today, and God may allow Satan to cause an "accident" as God himself works out some greater purpose.
   Of course, Satan can never do more than exactly what God allows, but God sometimes lets certain events occur for our own good or the good of others. At times God may be trying to teach us lessons or draw our attention to something. That was the case with Job. My own experience has given me much more empathy for others who have suffered.
   The Bible also tells us that time and chance happen to everyone (Ecclesiastes 9:11). Sometimes, in spite of the best — laid plans and precautions, God may allow "accidents" to occur for some future good.
   But God also promises to protect us from harm as we trust and obey him, and we need to boldly claim such promises from him (Psalm 91:11-12). I know God protected me from worse, and that he has sped my healing. It is Satan — not God — who takes glee in the suffering of humans.

Take Charge of Your Life

   How to avoid tragic accidents? In short, take charge of your life. God did not intend life to be a harrowing roller-coaster ride of one haphazard, harmful event and setback after another.
   You are in control. You needn't be a victim. You must exercise character.
   When we follow the way the Bible teaches — the way of outgoing concern for others, of loving our neighbor as ourselves, of staying positive and alert and enthusiastic at all times — we will be much less accident-prone.
   We all need to learn what God's instructions are and follow them in every situation. We can all avoid a lot of suffering if we remember that cause and effect are always at work, and strive to remove the causes of tragic accidents.

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Plain Truth MagazineNovember-December 1984Vol 49, No.10