The safety of our streets

Murray Dunlap’s car, following the wreck he had.

In an instant, I went from taking a job teaching high school English to a three-month coma. I went from a marriage to my high school sweetheart to a year in a wheelchair.

The funny thing is, I have forgiven the man who missed a red light. I can even go so far as to call him my friend. Accidents happen. But this is one example of the precarious nature of driving safely on our streets.

My life changed in that instant. First it went very dark, and terrifying. I met a girl whose actions can only be called deceitful and conniving to the point that I feared for my life. Then it went bright and beautiful, having been introduced to – and eventually marrying, an Episcopal priest.

Our streets held my life in a balance. One that ended in my favor. But it was a road that I must say was the most frightening of my life. I am bound by honesty to admit it held luck, but I will happily add that my faith played the largest role. All because I drove to take in a few bottles to be recycled on a typical summer day.

I now struggle to live with a severe traumatic brain injury. I have reached a point in my recovery that streets no longer frighten me. This is a new achievement. The anxiety created by relearning to drive and pass through intersections like, and including, the very intersection that changed my life has been a significant obstacle. Our streets demand greater safety. I am living proof that things could be worse, but I also prove the nightmare that can be created by driving. I was so confused by my brain injury that I married a girl who foremost desired personal financial gain. I did survive but can only express that this dark experience took me to the brink of insanity.

Our streets should be safer than this. Somehow the brains of our cars, the brains of our traffic monitors and the brains on our shoulders must be better connected. I don’t pretend to know how this would work. But there must be a way to prevent the loss of employment, brain function, the temporary loss of an intelligent heart, and the basic sensory awareness that allows safety – all of this must be protected and keep things like brain injuries to a minimum. My life should demand this need in a way that is inarguable.

I can smile now, but I went through hell to reach this beautiful place.

No one should be forced to survive this. Ever. I desperately ask that our streets be made safer. That our children will not endure my excruciating path. That we will learn a better way to remain connected to the ones we love.

As a writer, Murray Dunlap has published several books and is easily found online. As a clergy-spouse, he moved to Greenwood for his wife to be the new rector of Church of the Resurrection Episcopal.