car-accident

How to Drive On The Interstate And Survive (Maybe)!

In This, That, and The Other by Contributor11 Comments

How to drive on the interstateby BCtruck – YouTube

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 I’ve 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:

  • Weather
  • speed
  • Impatience
  • egos
  • drunk/drugged drivers
  • inattentiveness
  • sudden equipment failure
  • Construction
  • Complacency

First, If you don’t 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 equipment.OK, thanks for indulging me. Now let’s 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 the 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.

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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 the 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, your 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.

You can find my YouTube Channel Here.

Comments

  1. BCtruck, I think you are the guy with the GREAT YouTube channel but you forgot to self-promote. Well, there is my heads up to other readers, check this guy out. Now as far as driving, I am with you 100%. Over the past 47 1/2 years, have had one warning when I was young and have been run into three times. There was no place to go to avoid the other guy through we did try. Not too serious and no personal injuries. Like you stated, the other guys were distracted or inattentive. I am now semi-retired in the Philippine Islands and man what a different experience. I am OK on the NLEX highway system and out in remote provinces with less traffic. Put me in Manila traffic and truthfully, it feels like you are in a Mad Max movie. I take the bus to the city. For less than a dollar, we ride in airconditioned comfort and I am not wasting fuel idling in traffic jams.

  2. Good comments, BC!

    Although not a trucker, I too have put in more than my fair share of road miles. All of what you said is good, solid advise.

    Glad you are back with us!

    P.S.: My oldest grandson still lusts over the hammer you made!

  3. BC, I have driven heavy equipment, tanker trucks years ago. My Dad had driven trucks of all kinds and stock cars at one time. His advice was never become complacent, that’s when accidents happen.

  4. Glad to see you writing, BC! Good article. Alive today because I stop well behind other vehicles; this time a feed truck. Did not become a sandwich filling between the feed truck and a pretty red Dodge Durango.

  5. Sometimes no matter how careful you are someone will get you . Had an 93 yr old guy going the opposite way make a left turn in front of me on a rainy day at just after dusk when everyone had their lights on , I was doing the speed limit but braking as I was going down hill when this guy turned with less than 50 feet , if I had not turned away from him I would have t boned him maybe causing his death but I slammed on my brakes turned away side swiped his car . My truck a 72 gmc truck was totaled but the guy was not hurt to bad and my son and myself were fine , the Jimmy had a bent frame,broken front end and crushed right side .
    So sometimes things happen no matter how careful you try to be . Still miss that truck.

  6. Thank you for this very important article. It especially needs be read by the new young drivers out there. It is a very good reminder to the older drivers too.

  7. It’s a difficult skill to master, yet alone understand before you are actually in the situation. Driving in a possibly hostile environment takes a little getting used to and requires practice to make it part of your driving “habits”. I spent 13 months in Iraq and almost 3 years in Afghanistan driving urban and rural roads. From small arms fire, IED’s, illegal check points and typical traffic jams/maintenance issues, we learned quickly to adapt to the situation. Driving alone as a family unit you’re pretty much limited to going with the flow or possibly finding alternate routes. As a team, you still have all the same issues, but at least you have the assets to hopefully support your movement. As a civil security force trainer and PRT Commander, we typically traveled in 2-3 vehicle units with a range of weapons options. IED’s were always the key concern and impacted us often enough that we failed on many missions. The second most common issue was coming up to an illegal check point run by whatever group was in vogue that day. In most cases we would be nodded through, but in a few we had not other option but to engage and eliminate all members of the group conducting the check point. Pretty scary stuff since we were usually 8-12 strong while the checkpoint was being manned by any number of hostiles. So, when it comes to traveling during an true SHTF scenario, what will you do when you come to a checkpoint? If manned by official looking personnel you might think it’s OK, but for those bandits looking to k=take your stuff you will need to make some hard decisions. We carried LOTS of firepower, but the average american just won’t have the weapons and skilled operators to succeed. Best bug out early or hunker down for the long haul. Traveling on the roads will likley be VERY sketchy in a SHTF scenario.

  8. In our little corner of Maine, wth one major road going through the city, people used to slow to let other people turn into traffic, would slow down to let folks make a left turn, etc. Then – I hate to say it – 9/11 happened. Seems like that flipped a switch and suddenly everybody was out for me-me-me. I routinely slow for others to enter the traffic lane, make a left turn, etc., and always maintain a safe following distance (one car length for every 10 mph), and always stop at a red light so I can see the tires of the car in front of me, so I have room to manueuver if I have to make a sudden getaway. There’s some guy around town who feels it’s okay to make a left turn from the center lane on a red light. He almost clipped me, and when I honked my horn, he threw me an F-bomb. A few weeks later, I saw him clip another car (luckily I was well out of harm’s way). And don’t get me started with the people on their cell phones. What is wrong with people???!! (Hey you kids, get off my lawn!) But anyway, good advice, BC, and thanks for taking the time to write it up.

  9. After driving 200 miles each way every week from April of this year to September, I must agree with you. I saw it all on the Arizona interstate and I’m so grateful to be off the road now. It seems that the more you drive, the more you are at risk from particularly impatient, demanding people especially those climbing the mountain from Black Canyon City to northern Arizona.
    It was not worth insisting on my right of way at the expense of my life.
    Did not know about the tire treads coming off big trucks so easily. Thanks for the tip.

  10. My stepdad ran the wrecker for Reliance trailers when I was a teenager. I bet you guys would have had some good stories to swap at a truck stop.

  11. Never drove a truck, commercially that is. I’ve put several hundred thousand miles on several vehicles south of the border and across the usa/ what you say is pretty much spot on.

    The only real differences I’ve seen are car maintenance =/= persons level of sobriety- yes it is indicative and no it is not reliably so.

    That said. Vehicle maintenance is essential!

    Nice article

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