One most often learns when learning is required. Or when one faces trouble or is critically challenged.
In the past five months I’ve had to learn more than I had ever expected about defensive driving, although I had practiced defense driving for many decades.
I’m still learning many other things, such as staying off the Interstate highways on Friday afternoons and evenings because it seems that is when many truckers are heading home for the weekend.
For years I admired those same cross country truck drivers. If there ever was a “king of the road” I would have voted for the men (and a few women) shifting though the gears on what is called an “18-wheeler,” tractor trailer, or a semi.
True, I had read about at least one trucker who crashed into a car at a toll booth on Interstate 95 in Maine, apparently not noticing the rumble strip warnings leading up to those booths. But I considered such a terrible incident to be rare and freakish.
Now I’ve had to learn – after being hit twice by 18 wheelers since I started blogging last fall – drivers in cars should be wary.
Those who go through training for a CDL license (Commercial Driver’s License) may know how to back up their rigs and turn tight corners, but unlike commercial airline pilots with their well honed ability to make instant, life-saving decisions, at least some truck drivers are mere mortals.
In the military pilots learned to land on aircraft carriers. Truckers wore combat boots, carried heavy packs on their shoulders and backs and could strip down their rifles in seconds while the enemy fired machine guns . I can only conclude the truck drivers are real people.
My motor home was first hit by a confused commercial driver 26 miles from my home in Maine when he signaled he was turning right while stopped at a red light. Without warning he suddenly turned left from the right turn lane. The police said he was confused. He did more than $7,000 in damage to my unit.
My motorhome was pristine white. The two lane highway was lined by green bushes and trees. My unit was 27 feet long, eight feet wide and 12 feet tall, and it was a clear day on a very long, exceptionally straight and flat piece of road. The sun was overhead, not in his eyes, because it was around noon. Yet he couldn’t see my unit?
It was estimated he was traveling between 70 and 80 miles an hour on a rural highway. Fortunately for me, clearly with the help of the Lord, I walked away from the crash without a bump or scratch. Not even a sore neck.
I can only suggest he was a distracted driver who traveled that same road every day, his rig loaded with logs. He was hauling his 85 ton cargo to a busy paper mill.
Since then I’ve been a little leery of truckers. I’ve also been told they strongly dislike amateur drivers behind the wheel of an RV. True, we’re not trained and tested for intrstate driving as they are. Maybe we should be?
I know first hand. Several years ago, as I was heading north in my passenger car, traveling from Florida to Maine, the driver of a large, apparently quite new Class A motor home that probably cost $200,000 or more, pulled sharply left just as I was passing in the left lane. He obvious didn’t see me. I safely ended up on a wide, smooth and level grassy strip beside the interstate.
I’ve also learned it is best to travel in the right lane with my motorhome, even on three and four lane interstates. So I drive with my outer (right) wheels on the white line next to the shoulder.
Now and then I’ve been fooled by what I call trap lanes on interstates, lanes that suddenly end and force you to turn off at an exit rather than continue forward. But traps lanes tend to be fairly rare. I also have to be unusually alert when motorists are entering
an interstate highway at high speeds. Sometimes I can switch lanes, but often I simply have to slow down to let them into “my” lane.
I’ve also learned that a long bed crew cab pickup is slightly more difficult to drive that a sleek, recently purchased passenger car; that hauling a trailer or fifth wheel is several times more difficult than driving a car; and that a Class C motorhome is easier to drive than a pickup and trailer or a large, bus-like Class A motorhome.
These are among the many things I’ve had to learn now that I am what I prefer to call a mature adult. (Some tend to call us senior citizens or simply old fogies and progressively worse).