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Opinion: ‘Get centered’ before you turn the key

Audrey Cozzarin, a Norwalk resident, is head of the Norwalk Citizens Traffic Safety Committee, hosts of the upcoming “Driving Mindfully” free event, a unique mix of Meditation and Driver Safety, at Norwalk Public Library on Sat., Sept. 7, 10:00-11:00 A.M. All are welcome. Register at www.norwalkpl.org.

Traffic. One word, many issues. Traffic is the #1 concern of Norwalk residents, according to a 2018 finding by the Plan of Conservation and Development Committee. Congestion on our highways and local roads remains a challenge.

Motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists share the road, and we all experience the danger of unsafe behavior: Speeding, running red lights, blowing through stop signs, tailgating, jay-walking, bicycling on the wrong side of the road, etc. In Norwalk and our region, these are daily occurrences.

What can be done to address this behavior and make our roads safer? It starts with me, you, each individual. We have a choice to “get centered” before we turn the key, deciding to be mindful before we start out on our journey.

When I am in a hurry, I realize I may be driving over the speed limit. When I’m angry at another motorist who just ran a red light, I cause my own blood pressure to rise, injuring myself. Becoming aware that I need to pay better attention (to speed limits, to those around me on the road) as well as control my own emotions (for better quality of life), I see how it affects my community in a positive way. I tend not to see others as in my way, and no longer treat time as if it is an enemy. If our minds are on our “to-do” lists, worries, relationships, politics, and other societal stressors, we are not paying attention to what we are doing in the moment. When we are driving 2-ton metal objects that can injure and kill, we must be fully present.

Meditation, mindfulness and breathing skills, and contemplative prayer are ways to calm the mind and soul, which soothe the emotions. They keep you awake and alert, in the here and now, and allow you to treat others with greater compassion. Not making excuses for poor driver behavior, but letting it go and being a better driver yourself because of it. Living by example. Join me in this.

Try driving the speed limit for one day. Follow the traffic laws flawlessly. See how that feels. Observe how others on the road behave around you as you practice this. Remember to “hang up and drive.” Safe driving starts with you, me, and each of us.

Ideally, Norwalk may become a more “walk-able, bike-able” city, quieter and friendlier, allowing everyone to enjoy life more. However, without resolving driver behavior and traffic issues, they are in danger. Get centered before you drive. It may save a life. Your own.

5 comments

Paul Lanning August 25, 2019 at 11:30 pm

The rudest and most dangerous drivers aren’t reading this. Until the NPD starts enforcing traffic laws, every intersection in town will be the venue for a game of chicken. Enactment of a City Surcharge on all moving violation summonses might give the police an incentive to do some enforcing.

Audrey Cozzarin August 26, 2019 at 10:28 am

Paul, thank you for your succinct analysis. Since I embarked on this “mission” of trying to make Norwalk roads safer, through this Committee, I and others have reached out to virtually all of the city and state constituencies involved in/charged with public safety. Been an eye-opener. Driving behavior is very much a symptom of and reaction to a combination of societal factors as well as road engineering, and of course, a willingness by all individuals (citizen, official, all people) to do something about it. It’s complex, but that is not to excuse the behavior and allowing it to continue. Please join me in this great task of reaching those who need to hear and participate in solutions. The Norwalk Citizens Traffic Safety Committee is comprised of some really bright and committed Norwalkers and we can use all hands on deck! I believe we can improve safety and courtesy on our roads here in Norwalk. This takes a village.

Steve Mann August 27, 2019 at 9:03 am

It is long overdue to address this subject in Norwalk. We see the signs of need everyday on the streets of our city and thanks to Audrey for taking the lead. As a member of this committee, I sit in meetings with other Norwalkers who’s stories and experiences are all too familiar. At the same time, this is comforting and frightening. Mr. Lanning is absolutely correct: There are many of us who just need to be reminded that civility must extend to driving habits. Sadly, there are others who just couldn’t care less about your safely, or whether you even exist. To those, enhanced law enforcement is the only thing they’ll understand. Let’s all take a part in making this city safe to traverse in a calm manner.

Angela Carey August 27, 2019 at 8:16 pm

Thank you Audrey for bringing attention to this challenging and serious problem that exists in Norwalk, Fairfield County and throughout our country. As has been said already, we individually have to take it on. However, I’d like to see the City do more public awareness campaigns. Talk it up at home, with friends, anyone willing to listen. The consequences of distracted driving are numerous and tragic. I have a tiny buddha fixed to my dashboard as a reminder. I hope you all post a reminder on your dashboard.

Audrey Cozzarin August 28, 2019 at 8:19 am

Angela, thank you. Speaking of dashboard reminders, pick one up at the “Driving Mindfully” display on view now at Norwalk Public Library (1 Belden Avenue) later today. We will be giving out these reminder cards at the “Driving Mindfully” event on Sat., Sept. 7, 10-11am at the Library. I have one on my dashboard, a constant reminder to just breathe and “let it go,” as well as bring my attention back to the road in front of me instead of my mind’s tendency to drift off into thought. Little reminders such as this can help sort out what is truly important: To slow down and drive carefully, and when you have a little extra time like this, you may even find it possible to be courteous.

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