A.B.C.’s of Driving

You know what really turns my crank backwards?

Semis in the ditch and in crashes. It seems like I’m yelling about this constantly. When will drivers start to listen?

Yes YOU!
Stop using excuses for a crash. It’s rarely an accident! I know this because excellent drivers rarely crash. For me it’s as simple as A. B. C.

A – Anticipate what the other drivers are going to do before they even think of it themselves. Putting the phone down isn’t an option. It shouldn’t even be “up” in the first place. If you have anything distracting you will not be able to anticipate.

Driving requires your FULL attention. I know that will keep you busy, even on long Prairie stretches. I’ve been cruising along with no one in sight for miles except for 1 lone vehicle looking to enter or cross the highway. Far too often they aren’t paying attention and that requires me to go to plan B.

B – Make a plan B. Anticipate, then plan for the unexpected as a plan B. As I come to this lone vehicle I anticipate that they aren’t paying attention and check my escape route. I look all around to see if I have room to make a maneuver and stay ready. It has saved me from saying after a crash “he just pulled out in front of me with no warning!”. Sure, I would’ve been justified legally and found not responsible but that isn’t my goal.

My goal is to arrive safely at my destination (my home) without any mental or physical damage to me, my vehicle and cargo, and other road users. It doesn’t matter what weather, road, or people conditions that I come across.

There is no 100% guarantee that nothing will happen but we control a very high percentage with our approach.

I’ll tell you what triggered my thoughts to write about this. I was sitting at home because the forecast was calling for a bad winter storm in Saskatchewan and Alberta. I was booked on a multiple delivery load and then I was supposed to go to the Pacific NW for a multiple pick load coming home. Instead of leaving on Sunday the boss told me to wait. It costs money for both the owner and driver to park at truck stops, even with anti-idle technology and food in the fridge. Not to mention the dangers of driving in a storm that’s building up.

It was a great call because of the major crashes and vehicles in the ditch in SK and AB. This was on loads that “needed“ to get moved and delivered by a certain time. Remember the only “late” load is one that needs recovery from a crash. Guess what? As I’m editing, I’m done all my pickups and just waiting for border clearance. Those 70+ vehicles that wrecked? I guarantee my extra empty miles still look better on the balance sheet.

I passed numerous vehicles still waiting to be recovered and as I rolled west on Hwy 3 just past Seven Persons AB I saw a Kenworth with Super B grain trailers coming towards me. When he got to about 200 m away I saw the truck rock up on the passenger side, rubber flapping between the bumper and the hood and then clouds of dust obscuring that side of the truck. I immediately slowed and moved to the shoulder. I knew that since it was a passenger front tire he was going to veer towards the ditch. I watched him pass by me, heading inexorably to the ditch. My plan was to get back to the truck and help the driver out of the rolled over truck and render whatever aid I could. I watched in my mirror as the truck drove down to the middle of the ditch, temporarily started climbing back up again, and then back to the bottom. In awe I saw the truck continue to roll and eventually after about 700m the rig pulled to the right and up into a field approach. So much for watching a rollover!

I knew I still had to go back, check on the driver and congratulate them for the incredible mastery of what to do! By the time I turned around, the driver Perry Wold, already had a tire truck on the way. His rig was parked just as nice as you please in the field corner as if that were his intention all along. After all the carnage of drivers wrecking, this was an incredible boost to my faith in drivers.

Let me explain real clearly for you.

When something happens, your instinct will be to take evasive action and to hit the brakes. THAT’S WHAT CAUSES JACKNIFES AND ROLLOVERS!

FIRST! Hold the wheel as steady as you can, keeping as much control as possible, steering as little as possible. DO NOT make any sudden moves. Yes, you will go in the ditch but keep it straight. DO NOT HIT YOUR BRAKES! When you seem to have some control and the rig is slowing, you can then do what Perry did by trying to get back to the road. He felt it was too unstable, so he went back to the bottom, still looking for an escape route, not doing any braking. That came up when he saw the field approach and because he turned to the right, where his flat tire was, the chance of a rollover climbing up into the field to the right was negligible.

In 40 years of driving, he had never blown a front tire. This shows his experience, that even though it was a new thing, he knew he had to keep straight and not hit his brakes.

He got a new tire installed, drove back out and continued his day. He saved himself and his insurance company tens of thousands of dollars that day. Very impressive.

It is possible my fellow drivers. It is possible to retrieve something good out of a bad situation.

Back to the plan.
C – Circle back to A. Keep anticipating. Keep making plan B’s. Repeat.
It takes being attentive when behind the wheel to control your destiny.
Drive as if your life depends on it… because it does.