Originally created 12/16/03

Lights can cause auto accidents



It's Christmastime, and I am driving down the road in my tiny, red 1995 Ford Aspire. Different thoughts run through my head: "That car next to me looks like it smells good." "My CD player skips when I hit speed bumps." "Good golly, Miss Molly, my heater is terrible." "I want some french fries." "Oh! Christmas lights ..."

My eyes wander to follow the mesmerizing, sparkling wonders and - boom! Look who got in a car accident. You guessed it: Me.

Well not really, but it could happen.

I have heard stories from teens and adults about accidents that have resulted from the distracting beauty of off-road lights. Whether it's the lights of a police car or an icicle-lighted house, lights attract eyes like Santa attracts children.

Like moths, humans are charmed by lights. The Web site www.drivers.com reports that 29.4 percent of all traffic accidents are caused by "outside distractions." What's a bigger distraction than Santa, his reindeer, their sleigh, baby Jesus, candy canes, Christmas trees and holiday greetings illuminated in someone's yard?

Similarly, how many times have you found yourself engulfed in a touching roadside memorial so overly tragic that you look, inadvertently setting yourself up to receive a small wooden cross as well.

"We miss you, Johnny," indeed. I apologize, but Johnny is a huge distraction, and so are his flowers.

Roadside displays need to be tamed.

I offer these few tips for those who choose to decorate the roadside:

  • If you are going to hang lights, do not have them blink in an eclectic celebration or spell "Happy Birthday Jesus." You may as well hang a sign reading: Look at me while you are driving!
  • Candy cane, Christmas tree or dreidle-shape lights do not belong inside of a car next to your "Baby on Board" sign.
  • No lights are better than tacky lights; drivers will make fun of your designs as they drive into another car.
  • When Christmas is over, take your lights down so a driver won't forget his driving skills while he ponders your roadside faux pas.
  • For drivers, I have these words: Keep your eyes on the road and stay focused. Avoid the distractions of roadside memorials, take heed to police lights and avoid the allure of calling birds, turtledoves and partridges so you don't crash into any pear trees.

    Kyle Fitzpatrick is a senior at Westside High School.