No two ways around it. The world is a bit of a mess.
It’s scary. Unsettling. And confusing.
As things start to open up after most of the country’s been locked in place, I’ve given a lot of thought about what it means to go forward.
And one helpful analogy has to do with speed limits.
Traffic accidents take a lot of lives every year in this country. Almost 40,000 annually.
That’s a lot of death and sadness. And of course, nearly all of it could be avoided if we did one simple thing.
Cut the speed limit to under 10 mph.
Now, this wouldn’t stop people from crashing completely. After all, there are a lot of bad drivers out there. (Take it from me, I live in Florida.)
And not everyone will obey the law to begin with.
But the number of high speed crashes would decline dramatically. And the crashes that did happen would rarely be fatal.
Of course, this would slam the brakes on more than cars. It would grind the whole country to a screaming halt.
Think about how slow it would be to get anywhere. Cross-country deliveries would take so long, food would rot on the trucks.
You probably wouldn’t be getting those Amazon deliveries too fast either.
So we don’t set the speed limit this low. We’ve reached a tradeoff as a society. To balance the needs of everyone against our need to protect each other.
We’ve accepted this tradeoff, even though almost nobody thinks of it this way. After all, you don’t consciously trade a family road trip, shorter commute or fresh food for someone else’s life.
Or your own.
This is much like where we stand with this virus.
We know that by trying to get back to “normal,” the virus will spread. More people will be exposed. And more people will lose their lives.
Believe it or not, these are the facts.
But if we stayed in a permanent quarantine, like a super-slow speed limit, we’re giving up a functioning society.
The economy craters (yep), and then stays there. Millions are out of work. People don’t seek medical care. Depression skyrockets. And suicides and domestic violence go up, while education and our way of living go down.
So, what is America’s COVID-19 “speed limit?” What are we willing to tolerate to try to both save our country and save as many lives as we can?
Truthfully, I don’t know the answer. And just like speed limits are different on highways, in neighborhoods, and on country back roads, there may be different answers for different communities.
You have to think about what makes sense for you.
Is staying at home, being careful about wearing a mask, and avoiding others a 10 mph speed limit? Maybe not, if you’re older or have underlying health conditions.
But pretending we’re magically back to normal, hanging out in crowds, and throwing caution to the wind is like driving as fast and recklessly as you want.
It doesn’t just put you at risk, in the end.
Like I said, we have to find a place in the middle. To not completely eliminate the risk, but to claw back more of a normal life.
It’s your own speed limit sign.
Just choose it wisely.
And be careful out there.