STREET SMARTS - Can other drivers put their trust in you?

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When I think of trust, a picture comes to mind of a baby looking up and smiling at its mother, depending on her for safety and well-being.

On a larger scale, we place trust in a variety of institutions, manufacturers and our fellow citizens. However, a situation in which we display a huge amount of trust is when we go out onto the roadways. We rely on other drivers to be attentive to their driving and keep us safe.

A major tenant of defensive driving is, "don't trust the other guy," and this is good advice, but in reality, we trust other drivers all the time.

For example, if we are waiting to enter an intersection and an approaching car slows and signals to turn, we don't normally wait for their turn to be completed before we pull out. We pull out in front of the car and trust that the driver is going to turn as his actions indicate.

Although there is usually a gap between the ideal and what is practiced, we owe it to those with whom we share the road to give our best to be safe drivers.

As summer approaches, two driving concerns seem to come to mind. The first is driving while under the influence of alcohol, and the second is cell phones. Both of these issues are equally hazardous.

In Washington State, between 2004 and 2008, 46 percent of the 2,941 traffic fatalities involved alcohol. That is 1,367 deaths caused by drivers violating the trust we placed in them to keep the roads safe.

If drinking is an important part of the way you socialize, there are ways of planning ahead to insure that you arrive safely home by having a designated driver or taking a taxi.

Others are depending on each of us, individually, to take responsibility for making the correct decision and fulfilling that trust.

Now, with the enhanced cell phone law, police officers will be able to pull over drivers talking on their cell phones without using hands-free device.

Others on our roadways are trusting in each of us to let voice-mail take our calls, or we will pull to the side of the road to talk if we really believe it cannot wait.

Every time we drive our car, we put our trust in others to be responsible and not place us in danger. They deserve the same consideration from us.

Capt. Gary Bainter is Patrol Division commander for the Walla Walla Police Department. He can be reached at gbainter@ci.walla-walla.wa.us or 524-4372.

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