Four-wheelers, too: Highway safety should be a widely shared aim

user-gravatar Headshot
Updated Jul 10, 2014
trucks on highway
trucks, highway

Reader Rick Blatter of Laval, Quebec, offered the following response to this linked New Jersey newspaper editorial to Overdrive after it was ignored by the newspaper’s editors. Weigh in yourself in the comments or write a letter to the editor of Overdrive via this link.


I too am angry and saddened that yet another person has died on the highways of New Jersey.

Neither tightening nor relaxing regulation will solve the problem of non-compliance.

And part of the problem may be totally illogical over-regulation. Some rules actually penalize and discourage tired drivers from stopping to take a safety nap (of one, two, three or more hours) if tired. Why would anyone make such an unsafe rule? Every rest area gives lip service to “safety breaks,” yet Department of Transportation rules actually discourage this in practice.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Missouri-based Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, sums up the problem this way: “The (new) rules took away all the flexibility around planning for breaks and avoiding traffic congestion.”

“When your work day starts, it ends 14 hours later, no matter what you did in that time,” said Spencer in this story. “So say after four or five hours, (a driver) gets into a congested urban area and thinks it would make sense to take a nap and take a break and wait for the traffic to go away. Your 14 hours doesn’t stop, putting you at risk of not making your destination before you run out of time. It’s nutty.”

If a driver feels tired, yet he or she can’t afford to lose the safety break/nap time without risking running out of hours, he or she tends to press on.

Why would anyone make such a dangerous rule? Why would lawmakers discourage (for all intents and purposes) tired drivers from taking a nap/ safety break?

Margaret Jelcich, of Maplewood, N.J., recently sent a New Jersey paper an opinion letter blaming the ” the bullies behind the wheels of tractor-trailers” for highway safety problems.

I am a trucker (amongst other things), though many people cringe when I say this. In the 20 or so years that I have been driving big trucks, I have been tailgated, cut off and a witness to reckless driving by automobile drivers on our highways. It is especially dangerous during rush-hour traffic when four-wheelers race to wherever they are going. The bigger the city, and the more dense the traffic, the more dangerous, reckless and uncourteous car drivers get.

Partner Insights
Information to advance your business from industry suppliers

My biggest pet peeve is four-wheelers that speed by me in the left lane, then slam on their brakes and cut in front of me in the middle or right lane … still braking. Do such drivers realize it takes me 10 times the distance to stop compared to their car? This maneuver is illegal and will get them a fine if it does not cause an accident.

Another pet peeve is when cars zoom by in the left lane of a three-or-more-lane highway, then slam on their brakes and cut across three or more lanes to exit on the right at the last possible moment. This is an illegal and highly dangerous maneuver as well.

This reader goes on to say: “They play chicken, drive on the tail of your car to the point all you can see is the grille of the cab. They will box you in — front, back and sides — so that you can’t escape them. They drive in the left-hand lane, and speed.” These are all things I see cars do too. Granted, there are some bad truck drivers, but there are many, many more bad car drivers.

When not driving a truck, I drive a tiny Hyundai Accent. Since I know what damage trucks can do either because of a “bully” or nut behind the wheel, and/or because of blind spots, especially along the right side of big trucks, I give them plenty of space/room. (Which is the law … and safe.) I try to stay away from them! And so should you.

Unsafe car drivers like to hang out around the sides of big trucks. Not only do they risk being “cut off” because they are hanging out in the truck’s blind spot, but if they ever saw a big-rig tire blowout, they would realize that should a tire on the truck blow, and their window is open, they could be seriously injured by flying tire parts and even lose control of their car because of the surprise of the blast. Tire changers for trucks have been killed by the blast of a tire they were working on. Many safe garages now use cages to protect the tire technician when filling up truck tires … just in case.

Would you get too close to an elephant? My intelligent mother once said regarding crossing the road as a pedestrian: “You might legally have the right of way over the car, but you will be the one that is dead if the car ‘illegally’ hits you.”

When driving my tiny car I use this philosophy with big trucks and car drivers suffering from road rage. I try to stay out of their way.

This reader goes on to say, “I often see auto drivers pulled over, but never a truck.” If she only knew! Not only do I see Big Trucks pulled over very often by the police — there is more revenue from truck fines than car fines — but big trucks also have special police giving them more fines checking them at weigh stations around North America.

Ms. Jelcich believes that trucks have an “influential lobby” that protects them from obeying the law. Nothing is further from the truth. Trucking is over-regulated, and everyone except kids seems to hate big trucks and truckers despite the fact that everything we have/use/eat comes by truck.

This accident is very sad and unfortunate. My condolences to all. If the trucker was at fault, his life is over. He will go to jail and have nightmares for the rest of his life.

In closing, statistics show that the VAST MAJORITY of truck vs car accidents are caused by the car.

I apologize to Ms.Jelcich (and all other car drivers) on behalf of all professional, decent, courteous Truck Drivers for her (their) bad experiences with some bad apples.

This has got to stop, and the police must enforce our laws for everyone. –Rick Blatter, Laval, Quebec