This is a guest post by BCtruck and entry for our non-fiction writing contest.
Hi folks, I’m going to give writing an article,another try. While reading the rules for the writing contest I noticed where MD was encouraging people to submit articles, the words “we all have something to offer” struck a chord with me. I spent the largest part of my life driving an 18 wheeler long-haul (over the road). I started in 1977 when i joined the army and ive driven one till just recently,when i decided to hang it up. Consequently, I’ve learned a thing or two about surviving, driving.
The first thing I will do is break the dangers down that we all face while driving. Those are:
- drunk/drugged drivers
- sudden equipment failure
First, If you dont mind, I would like to toot my horn just a little in the hopes that i can convey to you, what i think qualifies me to give advice on a subject that is often a matter of life and death.From 1980 until 1990, I drove about 120,000 miles a year for a total of 1.2 million miles.From 1990 until 2010, I drove with my wife sharing the driving duties.In those 20 years my wife and i put over 4 million miles on several different trucks.One truck we put 1.6 million miles on before we sold it. In all those miles I only had a couple of speeding tickets, no accidents or wrecks of any kind,no log book violations. My wife had one speeding ticket (57 in a 55 in littlerock) One incident with a deer in Jackson Mississippi and no logbook violations. I’m proud of my driving record and I’m proud of how well i maintained my equpment.OK,thanks for indulging me.Now lets get after it!
weather:we can’t control it so we have two options. Don’t drive in it,or drive in a fashion that is commensurate to the danger presented by the weather. For instance rain requires less concern than snow, and snow less than ice. However, I’ve been on roads that had been rained on all day and as the sun went down the road surface froze making it not just a possibility, but a likelihood that a skid off would occur. My solution to ice, was never ever drive on it unless it turned to ice while i was driving, and then I drove only long enough to find a safe place to park to wait for warmer temps or salt trucks to work their magic.No destination, no type of freight was so important that i would risk the lives of other folks,my equipment ,or my own life. You can’t drive safe on ice. It can’t be done without risk that is greater than the need.
snow: There are different types of snow. Snow that is wet and heavy is actually fairly easy to drive safely on,provided you use good judgement when choosing a speed and being prepared to adjust that speed as conditions change. Also,planning your lane changes and exits from the highway well in advance and in such a fashion that your need for lane changes doesnt affect the speed or direction of travel of other motorists. Maintaining your own safe speed and planning your moves in advance is equally as important as not forcing others to make sudden changes in lane or speed. snow that is very dry is much easier to lose traction on. My philosophy about snow was, if I can drive without endangering others or my equipment, ill drive. If it was bad enough for chains, I didn’t drive unless it was to cross a mountain pass like Donner, or get to a safe place and wait for conditions to improve. There is an old truckers adage that goes like this,”you can to slow as often as you like,but you can only go to fast once”. I lived by that.
Speed: We all get in a hurry. We all have had things that happened to make us late for appointments. The problem with speed is, no one else knows about, or for that matter really cares what problem you had that made you need to speed, and speeding actually does very little to negate the problems you had that you feel necessitate the need for speed.My advice to those that are in front of an angry late person who wants to go faster than you, is move over and let them go. Passivity on the highway goes a long way in making a problem driver go away and perhaps save you from being a victim of road rage.
I’ll tell a short story about speeders. For the last 11 years of my driving career,my wife and i ran a grueling 6800 mile a week route over and over on the same highways at the same times. We found the same people passing us over and over throughout the day and we almost always ended up at the same stops, at the same time. slow and steady saves fuel,stress, and wins the race.
Impatience: Again, most of us have had things that make us late, but there are people out there that completely fall apart mentally when they are under the stress of facing a boss who will want to know why, or a potential client that will be getting a bad first impression based lateness. I’ve seen first hand, impatience make people do absolutely unbelievable things on the highway. Ive also seen a lot of death caused by impatient folks who made driving decisions based on anger. My advice is the same with angry speeders, move over, don’t make eye contact. That is a challenge to some people. It’s about arriving in one peace, not about saving face or fighting back.
Egos:All those years of driving taught me one thing that is incontravertible: you can find out anything you ever wanted to know about persons psyche, by watching them drive. There is something about the anonymity of a car and the power of a steering wheel,that brings out people’s truest,most inner character that they might otherwise try to keep hidden. Driving,allows Out of control egos, people who are otherwise constrained by society and its basic need for politeness, to let out their inner demon. these people are to be avoided at all costs and ive actually seen first hand one out of control ego meet another out of control ego, at 80 miles an hour. Its never pretty. Be safe, don’t fall victim to the “by God, I know my rights” mentality. It will get you killed by those who couldn’t care less about your rights,life, or anyone else on the highway.If they don’t care about their own life,they certainly don’t care about yours.
Drunk/drugged drivers: In this modern society, with a pill for everything and alcohol in convenient containers. Drunks and druggies are driving amongst us every mile of any highway we are on. Some of these drugs are prescribed by doctors so people who have mental disorders can function in a society that recognizes immediately if someone “aint quite right”. Unfortunately, these drugs that might help some folks, are easily and often abused and consumed with alcohol. Over the years I developed a keen eye for picking out drivers who were clearly under the influence of something that altered their behavior and judgement. Sudden lane changes for no reason, extreme speed fluctuations.I even noticed that people who drove cars that were in obvious states of disrepair, were more often the ones that would be under the influence of something. I’m not saying having an older, payed for car means you’re a druggy or drunk, but it is one of the things i used to determine the likely hood of impairment and I was correct, more often than wrong. someone who gets on the interstate with broken shocks, cracked windshield and lights not working, are often spending their money on drugs or booze and not car repairs or for that matter ,INSURANCE! Be very wary of them. They have nothing to lose and could not care less about damaging your car or leaving you with enormous hospital bills.
Inattentiveness: If you have a phone, I will call you a liar if you say you’ve never made a call or accepted a call while rolling down the road……. ok ,,,, just me? The fact is, as the world changes, we have to adapt to those changes by being extra alert and vigilant. Texting, talking on the phone, messing with complicated stereos and navigation equipment, takes attention from the most important thing you are doing. I think we’ve all realized this and maybe some of us have even made efforts to try to make ourselves safer from the inattentiveness that goes with technology by looking closely at people in our mirrors and glancing at them when they pass. You can do a lot to enhance your safety, just by recognizing those who aren’t paying attention to their driving and may have a cell phone stuck to their ear. Increase following distance if your behind them, slow down to a point where they just have to pass you,if you are in front of them and don’t be beside them when they realize they are in the left lane and want to turn into the walmart on their right.
Equipment failure: It happens to every machine eventually. Its just the nature of machinery to occasionally fail. For instance, you are driving over a two lane bridge with no emergency lane and suddenly your car stalls. There you are, can’t go forward,rolling backward will make it even worse. What do you do? Fist and foremost is get your family out and in front of your vehicle by a couple hundred feet. Then do what ever it takes to get the attention of cars coming up behind you to recognize that there is a problem (of course you’ve already put your emergency flashers on). When you are certain that folks coming up behind you, see your car is disabled, then you can make repairs or call police to direct traffic until a tow truck gets there.
This reminds me of something that non truckers might not realize. Tires on 18 wheelers are prone to Throwing their caps off, while going down the road. I hated caps and never ever used them. It was quite a bit more expensive, but i alway bought new tires.Sadly ,recapped tires are a fact of life and what you don’t know can kill you. I drive on the highway in my pickup and i never “hangout” near an 18 wheeler. I either pass quickly, or if i cant pass, i wait for traffic to clear beside him and pass only when I can get all the way around him. Those caps coming off will go clean through a windshield and do major damage to a vehicle.
Don’t follow an 18 wheeler any closer than you feel you can react if one comes off. Trucks see a lot of miles everyday and the profit margin is so slim that there are a lot of drivers who choose cash in their pocket over properly maintaining their equipment. It’s just human nature I suppose. There aren’t many who get away with bad maintenance for very long before they are caught by the DOT, but in between those time, a lot can happen. Dont ever be afraid to call the state police and report a truck that has obvious defects that could hurt folks. Other truckers do it, and we all want to be safe on the road.
Construction: Its everywhere! Its everywhere!! You have two types of people whenever you lose a lane or come up on sudden construction. You have those that immediately recognize the need for a decrease in speed and enhanced attentiveness, and you have those who see an easy opening to get ahead of a whole bunch of people who care about others. Don’t fight them. Don’t react to them. let them pass and just keep doing what you know is right. You can’t change the world, its evilness or right a wrong, with your car.
Complacency: When you do something over and over, a part of your brain that manages redundant tasks ,takes over the mundane repetitive act of driving and allows the rest of your brain get up and roam about the cabin. DON’T DO IT!!! Truckers fall prey to the natural way the brain works frequently. When (not if) you find yourself falling victim to complacency, you lose your edge, you attention to what lays around the next bend or a car on the side of the road that just had its hood closed and the driver door shut. Always Always, look as far down the road as your eyes can see and never-never never fall into complacency.
Thanks for reading folks. I think I’ll do an article about staying safe from bipedal predators while on the road at a later date and if its something you might like to hear about. peace love and groovy, BC.
Prizes for this round in our non fiction writing contest include…
- First place winner will receive – A $150 gift certificate for Hornady Ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner, a Wonder Junior Deluxe grain mill courtesy of Kitchen Neads, a one year subscription to the Personal VPN service courtesy of unspyable and 1 Case of Survival Cave Food Chicken with 12 14.5 oz. Cans courtesy of LPC Survival.
- Second place winner will receive – $100 off of your next order of Fish Antibiotics courtesy of Campingsurvival.com, a Survival Puck courtesy of SurvivalPuck.com and a SurvivalistBlog.net Coffee Mug courtesy of Horton Design.
- Third place winner will receive – a copy of my book ”31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness“ and “Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat” courtesy of TheSurvivalistBlog.net and a copy of “The Survival Medicine Handbook” courtesy of www.doomandbloom.net.
Be sure to read the rules before entering… This contest will end on March 17 2014