Driving after a while becomes second nature. You do it subconsciously, just like walking to the department every morning, multitasking while talking on the phone, or giving directions to your home. When you are new to driving, you are always alert, looking for the faint signs, every change in traffic light even from a distance, of pedestrians crossing, or changing speed limits, or slowing down signs, even birds flying or cars passing you. With time, you learn to relax while driving, your seat starts to recline more, you begin to brake and accelerate without remembering it, and you sometimes drive to the nearby grocery store, not even remembering what you saw on the road. You brake to a red light instinctively, slow down sub-consciously, without even aware of doing it. Perhaps that is when one needs to be worried.
Although driving has transformed from an uncomfortable to a comfortable and now to a relaxing task for me, I have never taken it lightly. I still indicate while changing lanes, slow down while taking a U-turn, or look for cars in the blind sight while changing lanes. It so happened that my friend pinged me one night when I was about to go to bed. It was almost midnight, and he asked if he could get a ride back home. He had missed the last bus. Although sleepy, I left to pick him up and drop him home. I knew the roads, hence did not take my GPS. I took the right turns, picked him up, chatted with him while driving, and dropped him home. And on my way back, I did the most horrible thing I have done in my driving history. I jumped a red light.
I knew it instantly I did it. I was tired, sleepy, and I still wonder how I did it. I have never jumped a red light, and never hope to do it again. The consequences could be disastrous if it was not for a cold wintry December night when the streets were deserted. I had never experienced this, but the moment I realized I had jumped the red light, my first instinct was to brake and drive back to the signal in reverse motion. Horrible and fatal mistake. Never try to go back if you have accidentally jumped a red light.
I came home feeling sick and dizzy. Every time I replayed the situation in my head, I felt nauseous. I could have been hit sideways by an oncoming vehicle. I could have had other people in my car. I could have been dead. Not only had I endangered myself, I had also endangered oncoming traffic. I have never considered myself as a traffic hazard, and although it was a lucky escape, I felt horrible.
Driving is as much a privilege as a responsibility. Whenever I hear horror stories about cars hitting and slamming into each other, or pass by cars in an accident with the blinking blue light of the police and the ambulance, I always thank myself that I was not one of them. I could have been one of them, with or without my fault. Jumping a red light was scary, and I hope it never happens again.