By Matt B. Walen
I love driving fast.
However, I never break the speed law (wink, wink) when I get behind the wheel. I was ecstatic when the new speed limit was set at 70 mph and 65 mph at night on two-lane roads.
Drivers living in Montana kind of need to put the pedal to the metal if we want to get any where any time soon. I have friends in the big cities who say its a two-hour trip (80 miles) because of all the bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Its the same for Montana drivers trying to get across one of the busy towns, such as Billings, Great Falls, Missoula or even Havre at 5 p.m.
Drivers learn the ins and outs of short cuts to get across town the quickest way possible, including which lights to avoid, which streets have stop signs and which streets are driver-friendly.
But with school starting in Havre Thursday and other schools starting about the same time across the state, Montana drivers need to back off of the gas and ride the brake pedal a little more. Our young people should have the right-of-way on the way to school.
I remember the first couple days of school when I was a young tyke living in Nebraska. I would get all excited about my new clothes, new friends and new teachers. I could hardly wait to get to school.
The last thing on my mind was thinking about all of the speeding drivers and large automobiles dragging down the black tops.
Both of my parents worked, I was the prototype of the latch-key kid, and I found myself walking to school on a regular basis. My walking to school was well before the days parents had to worry about child snatchers and other twisted perverts.
My parents biggest concern was that I made sure to look both ways at every intersection. I was instructed religiously to look both ways before crossing a street and to make sure the light indicated that I could cross before I would leave each day.
But not every child returning for a new school year gets the opportunity to enjoy the early days before buckling down for a long year of learning.
My story has a happy ending I did look both ways at every intersection and lived to tell the tale of one of my childhood friends who didnt make it to adulthood. One of my boyhood friends didnt make it home from school one day.
This is the tale of little Timmy Lowski.
Little Timmy was a nice kid. A year or two younger than me and much more gullible. But, all in all, a very nice kid. We would spend the summer days playing like all kids do during the lazy days between school years.
I would try to get Timmy to play sports, such as baseball and football, but he wasnt much of the athletic type and liked to play army or cops and robbers. Occasionally I would get Timmy to play home-run derby, but he didnt have the best hand-eye coordination.
One day after school, about a year after the Walen family made the great move north to Montana, Timmy was making his way home on his bicycle.
Little Timmy didnt make it.
The news report we read later stated that Timmy tried crossing a busy intersection, failed to look both ways before crossing and didnt stop in time for the big truck. The truck driver, moving along at the regulation speed, made a valiant effort to stop in time.
Yes, parents must continue to remind their children to be extra cautious when crossing streets. But drivers should also take extra caution when driving during the school year.
We get wrapped up in the hurried world we live in and a fatal accident can happen in the blink of an eye. Life is such a precious thing. We dont fully realize that fact until we lose a loved one.
Please slow down and give the kids a chance.
Think when you are driving the streets of Havre and other Montana communities in the next few weeks. The kids deserve a break so as adults we should give them a brake.