Risky Business

Robert Lake
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It comes as no surprise to truckers that four-wheelers don’t share the road very well with them. While the results of a recent poll about unsafe driving habits have made national news — truckers mostly shrug their shoulders and ask, “This is news?”

But the results should shock most motorists who think the riskiest drivers are teenagers. Mason-Dixon Polling and Research found that more persons in the age group 26-44 admitted to dangerous driving behaviors than other demographic groups in its survey of 1,100 motorists ages 16 and older. “Drive for Life: The National Safe Driving Test & Initiative” commissioned the survey, released this summer. The American Automobile Association, Volvo Cars of North America and Partners for Highway Safety and other safety, law enforcement and education groups designed the campaign to promote safer driving, and their findings have been startling.

The poll shows that 71 percent of motorists, including senior citizens, speed. Most respondents said it was OK to break the speed limit by five miles per hour, while about a third of men said it was acceptable to exceed the speed limit by 10 mph. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said it was OK to exceed the speed limit by 10 mph.

“These findings clearly show that almost every driver has engaged in a risky behavior at least once in the past six months,” said poll director Brad Coker. “In fact, more than 90 percent nationwide freely admitted it.”

People also admit engaging in other activities while driving: 59 percent say they eat, and 14 percent say they read while driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration research indicates that driver distraction is the main or a contributing factor in half of all accidents.

So, what’s a trucker to do? Truckers with top-notch driving records treat four-wheelers like obstacles rather than assume they are rational, safe drivers. Million-mile drivers like James Grimmett with Roberson Transportation in Champaign, Ill. He just gives unsafe motorists the road if they are driving recklessly. “I let them have the road even if it means pulling off to the side. I just let it go,” Grimmett says. He’s racked up more than 3 million safe miles, and his philosophy is one of turning the other cheek.

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When that many motorists admit to unsafe driving, truckers don’t have any choice. You have to be alert and make the assumption that you are sharing the road with some dangerous people, drivers that may be speeding, chatting on cell phones, reading the paper or eating their breakfast. This isn’t exactly breaking news to most of you. In fact, in the words of my young daughters, information about risky motorists elicits a big “duh.”

Therefore, based on the findings from this survey, the best advice I can think of is to always assume the worst.

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