I was on the highway, coming home after having taken Husband to work. The roads were a little slippery, but not very much. Someone, however, made an incautious move and spun out, ending up on the driver's side facing traffic. This required traffic to stop quickly.
What I first knew was that there were brake lights in front of me, and it took a precious second for me to realize that the car was stopping, not just slowing down. I braked hard, knowing that I really should be pumping the brake for maximum stopping power on the slush, but knowing also that there wasn't time. I didn't think I would make it, but in fact I stopped about 2 feet behind the car. Next thought: What about the pickup truck behind me? He also managed to stop in time.
So what's the big deal? That there was *not* a pileup!
If one person had not been allowing enough space between himself and the next car;
If it had been just a tiny bit more slippery; (Well, maybe people would have allowed more space. Hard to tell.)
If just *one* person, though, had been less alert;
If *one* person had been looking away;
If *one* person had been fiddling with the radio controls;
If *one* person had been on a cell phone;
Then we all would have paid.
I guess that's a simile for civilization itself.