07 January 2011

The Road Scholar - Day 7

First allow me to apologize for the delay in getting this out. I met up with an acquaintance in the Memphis area for, you guess it, Starbucks… and conversation.
This day has been rather productive, starting off in Gainesville, GA and wrapping it up outside of Memphis. Yet I am still perplexed at how we, as a society, have digressed in the way of manners. It seems now that common courtesy has become an uncommon, possibly dying, practice. I’m sure many of you have the same sentiments. Why is it when driving on the interstate, many still find it so “inconvenient” to actually know where you’re going that you have to cross three lanes of traffic, cutting others off in the process, in order to make the exit? I once drove that way, but since learning to drive a truck, I have changed my habits – even when in my car. I used to cut across lanes, change lanes or turn without using my signal, etc. But I was fortunate to have excellent instructors that put things into perspective, that the way I drove my car, and the courtesies I neglected to use, affected others around me. Granted, there are plenty of other truck drivers that STILL don’t keep this in mind, but as for me, I follow at a safe distance (I can’t stand when other truck drivers ride on someone’s butt to intimidate them to move over) and use my turn signal – ALWAYS. Sadly, there are few of us that maintain this practice. The Atlanta area used to be only moderately nerve racking, but now it’s about as bad as Newark/Elizabeth, NJ.
A misconception many have about trucks is that since we have 18 wheels, we must have as many brakes to stop with; 18 wheels, TEN brakes. Hypothetical: let’s say the average car is about 4,000 pounds, divided by four brakes = 1,000 lbs/brake; a fully loaded truck is 80,000 lbs, 10 brakes = 8,000 lbs/brake… BIG difference. We cannot come to a complete stop as quickly as a car, yet many still persist in passing a truck, changing lanes to be in front of the truck, then drastically slowing down, because your exit, 1/4 mile away, has a 35mph cloverleaf ramp. Then again, lawyers should also bear a brunt of the blame for perpetuating the mindset that truck drivers are ALWAYS to blame in an accident. Herein lies the problem, there are many professional AND courteous truck drivers, but when somebody in a car (and I will use this common example) passes a truck just before their lane ends because of a construction zone, then hits their breaks to slow down, there’s a good chance they will get rear ended – and guess who will be at fault: the truck driver. Lawyers exploit this scenario with billboards asking the question, “been hit by a big truck?” Even if the driver of the car is COMPLETELY at fault, that lawyer will portray them as the “victim”.
I’m not saying all car/pickup/van drivers are to blame, nor am I saying all truck drivers are the pinnacle of professionalism (I’ve seen more truck drivers that aren’t even qualified to operate a Tonka truck, than I care to count). What I AM saying is life is short, and we ALL have someplace to go, so if we share the road… and take a few seconds to extend a little courtesy to one another… then we can get to our destination safely (and possibly even feeling a little better for our display of kindness) and even alleviate some of the stress of the road, rather than exacerbate it. Let’s all drive safe out here. Who knows, that person you just let in front of you on the busy thoroughfare just might be going to the same Starbucks as you – and could pay for your cup as a show of gratitude… I know I would!

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