By John Latta
It’s that time again.
The highway travel season is upon us. Grandma and Grandpa drive to visit the kids and the grandkids. Fresh-out-of-school youth head to the beach, then to college or their new jobs. Mom and Dad take the kids to Yellowstone. Aspiring actors head to Hollywood to become screen legends, and melancholy dreamers with guitars drive to Nashville.
And they merge into traffic where you are trying to earn a living.
Our roads are public thoroughfares, and we share them with all manner of commercial and non-commercial drivers. Other drivers don’t always see the road the way truckers do. Truckers do more than their share of overseeing the safety of busy interstates, braking and slowing down way before the average guy sees the need. Truckers know how to organize their interstate driving to fit the moods of the people around them, allowing for the inexperience, incompetence or just plain anger they see and sense around them.
Is every trucker this good? No. We all know that.
But almost all of the experienced drivers out there will tell you they constantly adapt to road conditions, not only to get good mileage, earn their living and keep themselves accident free but to save other drivers who, without their unseen help, could be headed into a jam they might not escape.
Experienced drivers, good drivers, will tell you they don’t see the road as a crap-shoot where you get what you can, when you can, how you can and devil take the hindmost.
Whoa, I’m not suggesting you guys are some sort of saints or that there aren’t more than one or two of you who are a menace to society. But few four-wheeler drivers have your skill or your patience, and many who do, don’t exercise it.
So I ask four-wheeler drivers: If you get onto the interstate and it’s clear sailing, could you drive from Memphis to Minneapolis or St. Augustine to San Diego, on or below the speed limit, constantly aware of traffic, able and willing to adjust your driving so that other people – you have no idea who they are – can have a safer trip?
And I ask four-wheeler drivers this: If that guy in the hat is getting you steamed because he won’t let you pass, or that teenager with the iPod ear buds is uncertain which lane she’s in, Grandpa in the fast lane is really, really slow, or that mom is spending more time reaching baby’s toys in the back seat than watching the road, will you give ‘em a break or will you set them up to be passed, see-ya-later-suckers style? Oh come on, Mr. Four Wheeler, you didn’t buy all that horsepower and maneuverability, at that price, not to use it, did you?
From Atlantic to Pacific, good, safe drivers can be found behind the wheel of cars, trucks and big trucks. But if I were to guess – and I’m going to – I’d say there are way more safe truckers than safe four-wheel drivers. It’s not the experience – it’s the attitude.
I wish the public could tell the difference between a dangerous trucker and a safe one willing to cut into his day and maybe his pay to save you from yourself. The dangerous ones are the vast minority, and they’re people we would gladly see run out of the industry, driver shortage or not. The safe ones are the silent majority.
So when you and your sedan share the interstate with one of those truckers, instead of grooving on that mp3 player or trying not to spill ketchup, driving with no hands while you sip coffee and phone a friend or proving that with your horsepower you can race into that little gap in front of a semi and use it to gain a space or two in the chain, look around.
Watch one of these big guys for a mile or two. Now watch the cars around you. Which one do you trust more to keep you safe?