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I am not the author of this diary.  It was written by a former (and, it is to be hoped, future) member of this community who went by the handle "The Baculum King."  He would revise and repost it annually mid-spring and mid-autumn.  He is unable to post the diary these days; I promised him before he left that I would post it for him during his absence, which is discussed at the end of the diary.  Use of words such as "I," "me" and "my" below refers to him, not to me.

Many commenters back in the day said that what he had to say here was among the most important material they had read on this site.  (The present version is adapted from those two previous linked versions.)

Deep into the summer driving season, his advice is timely again.

Because the turnover on this website is so high, many of you will be reading this for the first time.  Pay attention -- this may be a lifesaver.

The flatbed truck, loaded with steel pipe out of Chattanooga westbound for Oklahoma City, was 30 miles out of Little Rock, cruise control set right at the posted speed limit. 200 feet behind him was another tractor trailer, pulling a dry van loaded with shelves and fixtures for a new Auto Zone store in California. There had been a light sprinkle earlier, but the road was mostly dry

The Pontiac Transport minivan was headed for Memphis, with a perfectly average couple in the front and their two little girls in their car seats in the back, going to see their Grandma.

The two teenage boys on the overpass were bored.

It probably seemed fairly harmless to put a rock in the plastic shopping bag they found in a ditch and drop it off the overpass to watch somebody dodge it.

When the bag fluttered down in front of the minivan driver he jerked the wheel to the left, dropping his left front tire off the pavement, sending the van onto the wet grass in the shallow median. With the cruise control set at 70 mph it came out into the westbound lanes at full speed. The driver of the flatbed got off on the shoulder as far as he could go to the right, the dry van behind him locked all 18 wheels and drifted to the right.

The sloped nose of the minivan went under the left side tandems of the flatbed; the 17,000 pounds they were carrying flipped it out the back like a potato chip in a high wind.

When the smoke and the dust settled the flatbed was off the road on the grass verge on the right side of the road; the dry van behind it was stopped on the shoulder; the minivan was upright out to the right of the flatbed, the highest part maybe waist high off the ground. The two truck drivers got to it almost simultaneously, the dry van driver carrying a 3' crowbar, their only available tool. The only sign of life was a continuous keening whimper coming from the center area of the minivan. The crowbar was inadequate to gain access.

An Arkansas State Trooper arrived about ten minutes later, without any tools that would gain access to the minivan, so he joined the truck drivers in standing helpless, listening to that godawful whimpering, refusing to loan his sidearm to the dryvan driver so he could at least do the humane thing.

About 25 minutes after the crash an ambulance arrived, equipped with all manner of medical supplies and equipment and two well-trained paramedics, but no tools that would gain access to the interior of the minivan. About this time the nature of the keening from inside changed; one of the girls had fallen silent.

About 35 minutes after the crash a Fire Department Rescue Team arrived, having covered the nearly 50 miles from their station as quickly as they could. As if a malevolent God with a twisted sense of humor was in charge, the whimpering faded out as they unloaded their equipment.

The foregoing happened, in front of me. I was driving the dry van. Out of compassion I have no doubt that the family of the dead was told, as is standard in car/truck wrecks, that the dead "died instantly". Based on 15 years and some million-and-a-half miles on American roads, and witnessing dozens (or hundreds) of such crashes, I can tell you it's rarely actually true. What it really means is that the fate of the dead was sealed upon impact, regardless of how long it took them to get there.

Before we dive into how one can best avoid a fate worse than quick death, let's review some physics. Most passenger vehicles on American roads typically weigh between 3,000 and 4,500 pounds. The biggest passenger vehicle generally encountered, the H1 Hummer, weighs just over 10,000 pounds. My Freightliner, pulling an empty 53'dry van trailer, weighs between 32,000 and 33,000 pounds. Empty. Under Federal (and State) regulations my maximum legal gross weight is 80,000 pounds, 20 times that of a minivan, eight times what a Hummer weighs. My tires weigh about 120 pounds each, and are inflated to between 100-120 psi. Just my fuel tanks, when full, weigh as much as the average passenger car. If we get tangled up, whether it's your fault, my fault or nobody's fault at all, you will lose. Every time.

I cannot adequately teach anyone what they really need to know about sharing roads with commercial trucks in this forum; riding with me for a week would be ample, but I'll try. Since the vast majority of miles driven by trucks is on Interstates and freeways, and most fatal wrecks occur there, that will be my focus.

It takes me longer to do anything in an 80,000 pound truck that's 65 feet long and bends in the middle than a car; accelerating, changing lanes, stopping. Please bear that in mind.

Entering an Interstate in a car should be a simple process; there's a clearly marked acceleration lane to allow you to match speed with traffic. Use it. Jumping out into a traffic lane at 40 mph in front of a truck going 65 apparently seems like a good idea to a lot of people, but I've never figured out why. Most truckers will move over a lane if they can to give merging traffic a clear lane, but running alongside them in the acceleration lane assuming they can or will, then having to brake sharply at the end of the lane (or darting just in front of them) is downright stupid. If you follow a truck onto an Interstate it will seem like it takes it forever to get up to speed; it seems that way to the guy driving it too. The dumbest thing you can do is to pop out from behind it without bothering to check on the traffic in the next lane that is already at speed. The extra ten seconds you have to remain behind the truck is rarely fatal; the pop-out move frequently is.

Interstates and freeways, by definition, have two or more traffic lanes travelling the same direction separated from opposing traffic by a barrier or median. READ ALL THE SIGNS!! In many places, especially in and near metropolitan areas, there are restrictions on which lanes trucks are allowed to use. The most popular on three-lane roads has become "Trucks must use right two lanes". This Rule makes the center lane the Passing lane for trucks, which makes it a piss-poor place for dawdling. "Keep Right Except to Pass" and "Slower Traffic Keep Right" are, next to speed limits, the most widely ignored signs (and traffic regulations) out there. Most of the time when you look in your mirror (those shiny things that let you look behind you that few people use) and see nothing but the grill of a Peterbilt it's because you are failing to "Keep Right Except to Pass". That driver doesn't want to tailgate you, he wants to pass; getting out of the way would be a good plan at this point, but not dawdling with an open lane to your right would be a better plan in future.

There are two safe places to drive in relation to heavy trucks; behind them or in front of them. Beside them is a really bad idea for a variety of reasons. First, it's much harder for the driver to stay aware of exactly where you are, particularly on the "off" (right) side, and you really want the driver of any truck around you to know exactly where you are and where you intend to go. Running over you is terribly inconvenient.

Perhaps the top reason to avoid running alongside a truck is those tires I mentioned earlier. The majority of trailer tires on commercial vehicles are recaps, inflated to 120 psi. When one lets go it can throw chunks weighing 50 pounds or more at velocities well exceeding the truck's speed, and sounds like a grenade going off. Scares the hell out of me when it happens 50 feet behind me; it can (and does) knock the window out of a car that's alongside, even if no rubber hits the car. If you are going to pass a truck, go ahead and get it completed. DON'T DAWDLE ALONGSIDE!

Trucks have a modern innovation many people are apparently unfamiliar with, lights down each side (and on each corner) that flash (cars have these too but they are rarely used). These are known to professional drivers as "directional signals" or simply "turn signals". If you will watch carefully these give you advance notice of where that vehicle is going to be in the very near future, which is a very good place to arrange to not be when it gets there. They are NOT an indication that it's time to speed up so you aren't behind it; behind it beats under it every time. There will also be times when you see a truck in front of you suddenly start flashing these "directional signals" on both sides at the same time. This configuration is known as "emergency flashers" and usually means there is some bad shit of some kind ahead you probably want to hit as slowly as possible.

When traffic is heavy you will notice that trucks tend to leave a gap between their front bumper and the vehicle ahead. While this space may look invitingly like it is custom designed to fit your car it is actually the driver's estimate of his safe stopping distance in case the traffic in front stops suddenly. If you dart into that space and traffic does stop you just made his stopping distance fall somewhere between your headrest and dash. This is almost always unpleasant. Should you need to move into such a space simply pull up alongside the space, match your speed to the speed of the vehicle that defines the front of the space, find the control for YOUR "directional signal" (usually a stick protruding from the left side of your steering column, push it up for "right" or down for "left", with a little practice you'll figure it out), and give the truck a moment to give you room, they almost always will.

Allow me a sidebar to explain one of the great mysteries of the road, the Phantom Traffic Jam. Everybody experiences these, where multiple lanes of traffic sharply slow or stop, but no cause is ever encountered. These are almost invariably caused by assholes who run up almost to their desired Exit three or four lanes to the left of the actual Exit Ramp, then have to force their way across multiple lanes, essentially stopping two lanes at a time until they finally get to the lane they should have been in a mile back. Avoid being one of these Assholes (which the Law should allow me to squash).

Sharing the road with trucks is a fact of life in America; EVERYTHING you eat, drink, sit on, work with or play with has to move by truck several times, from raw material to delivery to the point of purchase, before you get your hands on it. The entire American economy depends on there being millions of trucks in motion 24 hours a day, and there are roughly 50,000 more every year. Dying under one is largely optional, and the choice is, for the most part, yours.

I forgot to mention, for our Lady Kossacks: Anything you do, or show, in your car is on glorious display to the truckers you pass. Our view from the neck down is completely unimpeded, and we are bored.

If you WANT to provide a show, a little portable scenery, then may Dog bless you. If that's not your intention keeping your skirt south of your ass might be indicated...

Note: in one version of the diary, TBK included the following material worth reading:  Before I try to pass along a few survival tips to my fellow Kossacks let me address a point or two brought up in the first "Mangled" Diary.

Some folks were upset by what they perceived to be a "Trucks own the road" attitude on my part (and on the part of truckers in general). While I freely acknowledge that the rules governing right-of-way apply equally to all road users, I also firmly believe that they are trumped, every time, by the Laws of Physics.

In the entire history of motorized transport not a single post-mortum appeal of a fine point of the rules of right-of-way has overturned the original verdict.

Others objected to any suggestion that it is worth their effort to make my life easier on the road. Fair enough, but consider this: If you pull the ever-popular "Pull out in front of a truck to immediately turn" maneuver, or any other such move that requires me to slow sharply and drop multiple gears, I will burn between a half and full gallon of diesel regaining my momentum, dumping an extra few pounds of carbon into the air that didn't have to be there.

Anyway, by now I'm sure that most are aware of the tragic wreck that happened in Washington Thursday night; apparently the driver didn't get a chance to read my original Diary and now never will. There may have been alcohol involved, but even if there was it didn't cause the wreck.

The driver failing to remain aware of what was going on around her did.

It doesn't matter if it's because you are reading a newspaper, working on a laptop, concentrating on a cell phone conversation, carrying three shots of Jack Daniels too many or just chatting with your girlfriends in the car, if you are driving and doing anything that keeps you from giving the world around you your full attention you are a danger to yourself, those in your car and sharing the road with you and, perhaps most importantly, me. The fact that most auto accidents happen within a few miles of home is easily attributable to the fact that most driving is also done close to home, but that misses the more important factor.

Folks driving the same road every day DON'T PAY ATTENTION!! Everything is routine, they make the same turns at the same places at the same time every morning, without having to think about any of it, so they have plenty of time to review the paperwork for the 8:00 meeting or finish the sports section on the way. Until something slightly out of the ordinary happens and they kill a pedestrian or drive under a bus that's running a few minutes late.

The fact that I have managed to drive a truck for roughly 15 years without an accident, driving in whatever conditions and at whatever time is necessary, is partially attributable to luck, but is primarily because I am fanatical about keeping track of every vehicle I can see, calculating what the stupidest possible thing they can do is and having a response ready in case they do it. If there is a deer in the treeline alongside the road I want to know it, not because it affects me just standing there but because it may not keep standing there.

By far the most important single thing any driver can do to maximize their chances of completing any trip, whether it's across the Country or two blocks to the store is PAY ATTENTION! Drunk drivers and idiot kids with cars will both have a much harder time killing you if you have already noticed their erratic driving and considered your options for getting out of their way.

No matter how good a driver you are, no matter how good your reflexes, no matter how attentive you may be bad shit can (and will, if you drive enough) happen to or around you. No matter what happens, KEEP DRIVING! As long as you have control of your vehicle, use it. If you lose control, keep trying because you just might get it back. You can quit driving when you're dead, but until them putting your hands over your eyes will NEVER improve the situation, but will frequently make it far worse than it has to be.

There are three kinds of things you can hit with a car; things travelling the same direction as you, things that are not moving relative to you and things that are oncoming. I list them in that order because that is the order of desirability for hitting them. Hitting something (usually a vehicle, obviously) travelling the same direction is rarely fatal (unless the speed differential is extreme, in which case you weren't paying attention), as long as that's all you hit. The most popular way to make this situation far worse is to then hit either a stationary object or an oncoming one by the simple expedient of allowing undirected physics to determine the outcome by not continuing to drive. Even at high speed a simple sideswipe is not a serious matter (if you aren't a piece of sheet metal) but I can't tell you how many times I've seen a few hundred dollars worth of damage turn tragic because one (or both) drivers quit. NEVER QUIT!

Stationary objects are fairly easy to avoid hitting because, well, they are stationary. Some, like bridge abutments, are particularly important to avoid hitting because they won't move even after you hit them. The number one way to avoid hitting this kind of stationary object is NEVER LEAVE THE ROAD. No matter what is happening IN the road you will almost invariably make it worse by leaving any road at high speed. Hitting a deer or a dog or ass-ending a car that pulls out in front of you is almost always less destructive than what happens if you leave the road, thereby entering an area heavily populated with stationary objects we professionals call "not on the road".

The only thing worse than hitting a stationary object is hitting one that is oncoming, thereby adding your speed to it's speed to make the impact truly spectacular. This is to be avoided at all costs. If, for any reason, you find yourself driving in the median of a divided highway STAY THERE. There is nothing in a median that will be as painful to hit as coming out into opposing traffic will be.

There are two primary elements of "control" that you want to maintain, and use, when the shit gets in the fanbelt; steering and speed. GET RID OF SPEED. No matter what kind of bad shit is about to happen to you it will almost invariably be less unpleasant if you are going less fast. When things go wrong shed speed as fast as you can while not losing control. Jumping on the brakes with both feet in most emergencies is a bad idea because, anti-lock brakes or not, it is a very good way to relinquish all directional control. Using your brakes to rapidly bleed speed, on the other hand, is usually the best idea you will have all day when the fan blades get shmeared.

South Georgia, 20 miles or so north of the Florida line on I-95. Raining like two cows pissin' on the same flat rock. The kind of rain you only encounter south of Atlanta and east of Mobile, or in a hurricane or monsoon. The kind of rain where fresh roadkill can be either a bass or a possum, when driving uphill too fast can cause the bends...

Southbound traffic was fairly light, a line of 8 or 9 trucks spaced out so that the spray from one was mostly below windshield level before the next ran into it, staying in the right lane at about 62 or 63 mph, not so much because of the half-inch of water waiting its turn to run off the road as the feeling of disaster hovering in the air, looking for somewhere to land.

Northbound traffic was heavier, mostly tourists from places like Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania where rain has the common decency to form into individual drops before falling, running nose-to-tail at 55 mph, with trucks scattered here and there amongst them and irritated about it. One jackass from New Jersey or Vermont or some other jackass incubator dragging his 30' camper trailer in the left lane, not moving any faster than the slow lane but apparently only licensed to drive in the left; behind him, just clear of the cloud of spray coming off the camper tires, a Peterbilt pulling a flatbed with sideboards, loaded with citrus going somewhere up the seaboard.

The last driver in the southbound line saw him first, and warned the trucks in front. A blue Chevrolet Stepside pickup, lowered to about 3" off the ground, riding on extra-wide slicks all around, neon lights underneath, stereo decals (a Table of Contents for thieves) covering the back windows, every available accessory except a chandolier and a rudder, only one of which would have been useful. Driver reclining against the door like he was on a couch watching TV, the one hand on the wheel in constant motion as he surfed his way south at about 70 mph. He was too cool for words.

The southbound drivers started making their estimates on how far he would make it before he crashed; the most optimistic (and least experienced) thought he might make it to the State line. The cynical bastard leading the pack was just hoping he got past him.

It was bound to happen, so it did, when he was about 50 yards in front of the lead truck of the pack. Either he over-corrected or hit a wave, but either way the front of the truck drifted left and dropped the left-front tire off the pavement, causing a sharp pull to the left, which the driver tried to counteract by jerking the wheel right. It didn't bring the front back on the road but it did kick the back wheels out to the left, sending the pickup across the pond that was pretending to be a median like a flat rock.

The citrus-hauler first saw the pickup when it came out of the camper spray, broadside on, still travelling something over 50, sideways. With nowhere to go and no time to get there he instinctively stabbed at his brakes, locking his trailer tires which started a drift to the right.

On impact, the left side of the Peterbilt bumper hit square on the driver's door of the pickup, at a combined closing speed of probably 100 mph, the driver of the pickup trying desperately to get away from the door he'd been reclining against a couple of seconds earlier. He might as well have flapped his arms and tried to fly. The pickup windows that didn't blow out instantly turned red; the impact slowed the Peterbilt but his trailer continued to sweep right, gathering up a couple of carloads of tourists and blocking the road. The chain-reaction collisions started immediately.

The southbound truck convoy rolled on, agreeing instantly that trying to stop would do far more harm than good. In between warning non-involved northbound trucks of what was happening right in front of them the driver of the front truck, a cold-blooded bastard who had long since quit being impressed by random death, remarked that whoever called 911 needed to have them load the ambulance with extra sponges and buckets, or a ShopVac...

Many folks seem to think that they must drive at least the posted limit, regardless of conditions; these people are frequently known as roadkill. They might get away with it for years, luck apparently having an affinity for the stupid, but depending on luck when travelling at 100 feet-per-second is not my idea of fun.

Perhaps the most deceptively dangerous driving conditions present themselves when a road is freshly wet, especially if the weather has been dry for a while. After a few minutes the accumulated oil and rubber and bug guts will wash off, but for those few minutes the road is as slick as it will ever be without ice. I saw a multi-car accident Tuesday afternoon just outside St. Louis on I-55 North under exactly these conditions. A small (but heavy) rain squall moved across the highway and within a minutes cars were spinning across four lanes. One driver losing visibility and hitting their brakes, causing another driver to swerve on a road slicker than babboon snot...

ANY less-than-optimal condition should trigger an immediate reduction in speed, whether it is rain, fog, snow, heavier traffic or livestock in the road. At 70 mph you are covering almost 100 feet every second; at 50 mph it's closer to 70 feet. Go out into your front yard and mark off these differences so you can visualize them, the difference can be huge. At the same time, the difference can be barely significant. Most trips by car are in the neighborhood of ten miles or less; at 70 mph ten miles takes about 8 1/2 minutes. Cutting your speed to 60 mph for the same trip adds an entire minute-and-a-half, ninety seconds, while increasing significantly your chances of completing it unhindered by death or dismemberment, both of which are notorious for the delays they cause.

I won't even mention the significant improvement in fuel efficiency, and reduction in emissions, because everybody knows Liberals don't care...

The time to chop your speed is NOT when you hit adverse conditions, it's when you see them. Every year we hear about horrendous chain-reaction crashes involving dozens of vehicles piling up in fog banks. In somewhere between a million-and-a-half and two million highway miles I have never seen fog, except where it was artificially produced, that went immediately from clear to thick. If you run into fog that reduces your visibility at all lose some speed; if the fog clears you can resume your speed with the loss of a few seconds. If it thickens and you are going 50 instead of 70 that thirty feet-per-second difference might well be a life-or-death difference.

A note to those who drive SUVs; STOP WATCHING THE COMMERCIALS!! Four wheel drive WILL give you increased traction to get started on snow or ice (or mud or sand), but, at speed, it makes you MORE likely to get in a skid and makes any skid MORE likely to result in a loss of control, and SUVs are invariably more top-heavy than other passenger vehicles and thus more prone to rolling over, always a bad thing. A four wheel drive vehicle CAN proceed on snowy or icy roads roads better than a two-wheel-drive vehicle, but it CANNOT safely proceed faster, because the limiting factor, once in motion, is not driving traction, it's steering traction, and having power to the steer tires does NOT increase steering traction. Front-wheel-drive cars are NOT better on snow because the front tires both steer and drive but because the weight of the engine sits over the drive tires. I see dozens of wrecks every winter that could easily be avoided if folks would understand this one paragraph.

There's an easy way to gauge whether your speed on sub-optimal roads is appropriate, regardless of whether you are dealing with rain or snow or ice; swerve 6 inches either way. If you are afraid to do so because you fear losing control, you are going too fast. A gazillion different things can happen that will force you to change position within your lane, a chunk of truck tire (a "gator"), an ice ball off a truck (I've dropped these things that would weigh 100+ pounds), somebody's ladder. If you can't swerve by 6" you aren't really in control, you're a passenger.

By far the most dangerous road condition in winter is "black ice", which is hard to see because it's transparent and has no snow sticking to it. It doesn't matter what you are driving, black ice is a killer. Watch for it especially under overpasses, where daytime melt runs off the overhead road and refreezes on the road below. If you are driving in winter and notice lots of trucks pulled off onto the shoulder for no apparent reason, it's probably because there's bad black ice ahead.

Note that this doesn't apply necessarily to trucks parked on the shoulder of exit and entrance ramps, an every night thing now. This was extremely rare a few years ago, as it's the worst possible place to park to sleep, but it has been caused by adding trucks to the road far faster than parking places have been added while reducing the allowed hours of operation. Rest areas are full most nights by 8:30 or so, truckstops by 10:00 or 11:00. After that ramps are the only place left.

A final note that I may have covered in a previous Diary but am too lazy to go check; if road conditions are less than ideal forget that you have a cruise control, TURN IT OFF! You need to be actively in control of everything, and having your car trying to accellerate when you are busy avoiding an obstruction or evading a skidding car is not helpful.

I will not be citing any scholarly studies in this section, because I'm not aware of any that are based on gathering observations for over 100,000 miles a year since the advent of portable phones. I have watched, with interest, since "portable phones" came in bags with shoulder straps and weighed ten pounds, and were rare as virgin dancers in Las Vegas.

You, or a family member, are more likely to be injured or killed by a driver talking on a cell phone than a drunk driver!!

An individual driver on the phone is slightly less dangerous than a drunk, but in the aggregate they are far worse because they vastly outnumber drunks, particularly during the daytime. Their contribution to motor vehicle accidents is grossly under-reported and under-appreciated because, unlike drunks, there's a cellphone in damned-near every car and truck on the road, so it's usually not even worthy of note.

Drivers with a cell phone stuck to their head are, like drunks, blissfully unaware of their surroundings. In polite company I call them "cell-zombies"; most of the time I more accurately call them stupid motherfuckers. If you are observant they are usually fairly easy to recognize. They invariably stay glued in whatever lane they happen to start out in, even when a lane change would be appropriate or safer, to the extent of never noticing an emergency vehicle behind them with flashing lights (until they bump the siren). Generally, their speed will gradually decrease, because like everything else they aren't paying attention to their speedometer.

Drivers on cell phones, when they finally DO realize they must change lanes, are far less likely than the average driver to signal the change or visually clear the lane they are moving into, and, since they frequently fail to keep track of where they are geographically, are more likely than most to cross several lanes at once, having run past their exit while getting caught up on what Suzy is cooking for dinner. They are more likely to run red lights because they don't notice them, and will invariably be the last to react to visible road hazards ahead.

I understand that in today's world it is almost unavoidable that even the most responsible driver will get/make fairly important calls while driving, but it is fairly easy to minimize the chances that doing so will contribute to your hurting or killing someone. First, if the call cannot be cut short within about a minute, get off the road. If the call requires that you give or receive detailed instructions or write anything longer than a phone number down, get off the road.

While you are actually on the phone you have to consciously and aggressively compensate for the deficiencies celling causes, by forcing yourself to remain hyper-aware of your surroundings and keeping your eyes moving, constantly, from the road in front to your mirrors to your instruments (as you should anyway).

And for the Love of Corn, if you have a teenager who drives (that you want to keep around) find some way to get across to them that there is no way that somebody who is, at best, marginally safe to drive on dry roads in broad daylight can pull it off when their feeble little addled mind is absorbed with what they are texting or talking about.

The most dangerous car on the road is NOT the 1978 Cutlass Supreme with lots of Bondo and a 40-year-old drunk at the wheel; it's a Pontiac Sunbird with 4 or 5 teenaged girls in it, most or all of whom are on the phone. The only way it can be worse is if the driver is texting.


I've never been entirely sure just how long a New York Minute actually is, most doin's by city folk being something of a mystery to me, but based on the context it's used in I always assumed it was some indefinite but short period of time (as well as the title of a very good Don Henley song).

A week ago Monday I was reminded of just how quickly things can change, and it very nearly got me (and some other people) killed.

I had a load of PVC pipe fittings that went to Denver and Seattle, got the first half of the load delivered in Denver first thing Monday and headed on up to final-out Wednesday. Weather was good, mostly cloudy, about 20 degrees with a stiff breeze out of the north that was carrying a continuous stream of fine powder snow across I-80 as I crossed Wyoming. Traction was unimpaired, but I was easing along at 65 mph instead of the posted 75 just 'cause.

About 20 miles west of Rawlins, after a couple of hours of running on the same stuff, I topped a hill (MM 184 for those into details) and knew I was in serious trouble. Scattered at random over the mile-and-a-half long downslope in front of me were between 15 and 20 various trucks and cars, including a couple of State Trooper cruisers that were slid off to the right. Over on the eastbound side, where traffic was trying to go uphill, a couple of jack-knifed rigs had effectively closed the road, and a few cars had apparently slid off here and there. I really didn't have time for sightseeing, since I was still going west at 65 mph. I immediately offered up the Trucker's Prayer ("Oh, Shit") to anybody who might be listening.


Gingerly, like I was extracting old, unstable dynamite from the rectal cavity of a menopausal grizzly with a toothache, I applied a little brake. Nothing happened. Casually glancing in my left mirror I observed the interesting phenomenom of seeing my trailer tires not turning, while I proceeded west at a steady 65 mph. (the metering valve on tractor-trailers, if properly adjusted, always applies braking pressure to the trailer slightly ahead of the tractor) After enjoying watching my trailer tires for a leisurely 11 milliseconds or so, I redirected my attention forward, and started trying to figure out what and where I was going to hit, first.

The small part of my brain that calculates pot odds for me when I'm playing poker chimed in that it figured there was a 49% chance that I would hit another vehicle before leaving the road, an equal chance I would leave the road before hitting another vehicle, a 1% chance I would make the bottom of the hill intact and upright and a 1% chance that I could build a cushion of profanity and levitate my truck to the next upslope.

I immediately started cussing, with enthusiasm.

I couldn't turn the steering wheel, because if all eight trailer tires can lock without any discernible effect the two up front aren't going to grab much, and I was still pointed down the road, although drifting very slowly to the left because of the wind. I couldn't just activate my ejection seat and bail out because I don't have an ejection seat. I couldn't detect any levitation starting, so I had to try something desperate.

Most big trucks have what's commonly called a "Jake brake", an engine compression brake that functions by starving one or more cylinders of fuel and using the compression of the engine to slow the drive wheels. Normally, using it in extremely slick conditions is suicidal, because slowing the middle sets of wheels on a vehicle that bends in the middle will cause it to bend in the middle, which tends to be unpleasant at 65 mph, but since I had that ejection seat problem I had to do something, and turning around so I hit ass-first didn't seem all that terrible a prospect.

My truck is a fairly new model, with the Jake brake control in a stick off the right side of the steering column, and gives me the choice of how many cylinders I want to starve, from 1 to 6. I tried 1, then 2, and nothing happened. Gingerly, very gingerly, I tried 3. The truck didn't jump out from under me but I noticed that my southerly drift ceased, so I was going straight down what appeared to be the middle of the road.

About this time my "Low Air Warning" alarms and lights went off, a response to the fact that I had been blowing my air horns continuously to try to warn the folks downhill that I was coming. The funny thing about air brake systems is that if the air pressure drops below safe operating pressure all the brakes lock, which would have been suboptimal right at that moment, so I decided that everybody who was paying attention already knew I was coming so I quit blowing the horn.

I had to get some sort of steering control, so I decided to try another notch of Jake brake, and eased it up to 4. Contrary to expectations, again the truck didn't jump out from under me, but started a gradual drift back to the right. Well, hell, the wind would make me drift left, the Jake would make me drift right, what more could anybody want??

I wish I could claim that superior driving skills left me around to write this Diary, but the truth is I got extremely lucky. Since my load was light to start with, and half of it had already been removed in Denver, there was practically no weight on my trailer tires, so it didn't immediately jack-knife when I tried the brakes and didn't have enough weight to push things out of line when I started Jaking it.

The problem was a matter of timing: a break in the clouds when the Sun was at just the right angle had allowed the road to warm just enough to melt enough snow to wet the surface. When the clouds closed it froze into a thin layer of ice without offering any visible clues to what was going on under the steady stream of migrating snow.

There's no great moral to this story, just a reminder that when driving, like when living, there's merit to Don Henley's words:

In a New York Minute
Everything can change

A final note: I will quit Posting this when folks quit driving like idiots...


In his last diary here, at least for a while, The Baculum King announced his real name as Jeffrey D. Greer.  He specifically invited people to republish this diary as they saw fit (which I had previously promised him that I would do.)  He announced that he would be spending the next 24 to 46 months reachable at this address:

Jeffrey D. Greer #21561-076
P.O. BOX 5000

He can (as of this last report) receive letters and packages there.  He continued:

For the love of corn, please don't send anything that might be considered "contraband", but if you run across any cheap African hunting books, recent or old...

Some folks asked how they could drop a few dollars into my commissary account, apparently that's best done with a USPS money order made out to "Jeffrey D. Greer #21561-076" sent to :

Federal Bureau of Prisons
Jeffrey D. Greer
Post Office Box 474701
Des Moines, Iowa 50947-0001

Again, please don't consider this a solicitation for shit, it is provided strictly for those who asked.

Ya'll keep up the good work during my absence, hold this Administration's feet to the fire when they need it, support them when they warrant it and watch those Republican bastards, they can't be as stupid as their public face would lead one to believe: they are up to something.

The Baculum King let people know, as is discussed in comments in his last diary, that he was convicted of extortion (of Las Vegas casinos who had let papers with unprotected private customer information into a load on his truck.)  I looked into his case and I can say that while I would not recommend that anyone else get as close to the line between legal "hard bargaining" and illegal extortion as he did, if I were a defense attorney I would have had absolutely no problem defending his actions in good conscience.  I agree with his view that if he "crossed the line," many other more powerful players cross that line in business negotiations routinely.  Others hold a more negative view of his actions; that too is in that last diary's comments.  (It probably doesn't matter much to you, but it's there.)

If you appreciate the service TBK did in writing this diary, you know where to reach him and where to thank him.  For my part, having taught one daughter to drive this past year, I will send him my thanks for giving them something this good to read.

[Note: this section was written at the time of this diary's most recent republication on Nov. 22, 2009; the dates below don't apply to today:]

Coincidence update: TBK's sister, BrenP, came here this afternoon to post this same diary at TBK/BK/Jeff's request.  (I guess it's not a total coincidence, given the impending holiday, but still!  Showing up exactly an hour later?)  Her comments, starting here, answer some important questions about communicating with her brother by mail, what can be sent and where.

It turns out that BrenP has written about another brother of hers here before, in this diary.  I hadn't read this piece, from 2005, before.  What a timely reminder of it.  It seems like everything comes back to health care.

Originally posted to Doane Spills on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 09:50 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I had meant to publish this for Memorial Day (133+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JekyllnHyde, Angie in WA State, northsylvania, hester, ogre, SarahLee, mattman, PeterHug, cotterperson, mslat27, bronte17, Mlle Orignalmale, Miss Blue, wader, Texknight, hoolia, cosette, churchylafemme, barbwires, Kitsap River, KayCeSF, snowbird42, Jersey Joe, maybeeso in michigan, yuriwho, chimene, willibro, kamarvt, reflectionsv37, where4art, LABobsterofAnaheim, quaoar, Ice Blue, blue jersey mom, paxpdx, exmearden, Tunk, johnrhoffman, Lisa Lockwood, Pluto, JanL, Ekaterin, Oye Sancho, Denny in Seattle, BachFan, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, Albatross, nonnie9999, Dauphin, Friend of the court, dov12348, dotsright, camlbacker, possum, godislove, Debs2, mamabigdog, Trial Lawyer Richard, operculum, kingyouth, NoMoJoe, puzzled, millwood, carpunder, yella dawg, Got a Grip, kafkananda, rogerdaddy, ChocolateChris, mamamedusa, Gemina13, kyril, luckylizard, BYw, MizC, allie123, Quilldriver, Robobagpiper, palantir, ekyprogressive, satanicpanic, maggiejean, Dirtandiron, bsmechanic, Carol in San Antonio, maryabein, janmtairy, viet vet, velvet blasphemy, JesseCW, GreenMtnState, DClark4129, sanglug, allep10, Dragon5616, JoesGarage, BigVegan, Christy1947, grassrootsnm, dorkenergy, LaughingPlanet, eXtina, politik, SeattleTammy, Kristina40, Otteray Scribe, Oh Mary Oh, the girl, I love OCD, cv lurking gf, BlueJessamine, KelleyRN2, princesspat, Ebby, Lorikeet, Santa Susanna Kid, dle2GA, corvaire, whaddaya, Imhotepsings, bakeneko, zenox, stunvegas, jadt65, Dom9000, jacey, weatherdude, GenXangster, MNGlasnant, Eric Nelson, Socratic Method, swampyankee, oopsaDaisy

    but it slipped my mind; while this is being published later into the driving season than I would have preferred, today is not likely to be a heavy political day, so I hope that it gets a good audience.  I hope that others who are  so disposed will join me in sending TBK a note of appreciation for the original work he did.

    "So if you don't have any teeth, so what? ... Isn't that why they make applesauce?" -- GOP leader Rush Limbaugh

    by Seneca Doane on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 09:50:30 AM PDT

  •  Thanks to TBK and SD for posting this (36+ / 0-)

    I just finished a 2500 mile roundtrip drive from New England to the Midwest, and it's not pretty on those roads, folks.

    "Luminous beings are we . . . not this crude matter." --Yoda

    by GreenMtnState on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 10:01:31 AM PDT

  •  I agree that this is one of (38+ / 0-)

    the most powerful diaries I've read here, and I hope it's widely read today.  I share a lot of TBK's approach to driving, although I've never driven a big rig.  I learned to be hyper-alert riding a motorcycle to work, and have never lost that ability.  I've been driving for 44 years, without an accident or a ticket.  

    My mantra: drive as though everyone around you is likely to do the stupidest possible thing.  Pay attention.  I've avoided 4 "unavoidable" crashes.  If you're present, time changes and you find places to go, safely.  The panic sets in about 3 minutes later.  Pull over before it does.

    I am, at heart, an optimist, which I consider to be spiritually necessary and proper, as well as intellectually suspect.

    by I love OCD on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 10:02:48 AM PDT

  •  I have passed this along (17+ / 0-)

    to every teen driver I encounter along my life. Just as I passed it onto the daughter of a friend, the daughter's friend was killed as she texted while driving.

    I just did a 300+ mile trip two days ago and thought of this advice along the way.

    I think it is now ingrained into my thinking as I drive, and I am forever grateful for it.

    Not to throw shoes is the crime. Not to be outraged is the crime.

    by the girl on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 10:14:40 AM PDT

  •  Thank You For Re-Posting This (23+ / 0-)

    One of the best diaries ever.

    Hoping TBK is back with us soon.

    You can't always tell the truth because you don't always know the truth - but you can always be honest.

    by mattman on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 10:20:45 AM PDT

  •  Amazing diary. (15+ / 0-)

    I'd never seen it before today, and who knows how many lives have been saved and will be saved because of it. I will be posting this to my Facebook profile.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." - Voltaire

    by txflower on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 10:32:12 AM PDT

  •  This is one of the best (15+ / 0-)

    I make sure I reread it when I see it-just as a reminder.  I don't drive much myself but am driven a lot--and I freak out when my spouse or friend decide to pass to the right of a big rig.

    If wishes were fishes TBK could get a job when he got out going to every high school in the country to talk to the kids about safe driving.

    Democrats give you the Bill of Rights; Republicans sell you a bill of goods!

    by barbwires on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 10:52:55 AM PDT

  •  This diary should be required reading for every (18+ / 0-)

    driver's license authorizatin and all traffic schools.
    Timeless and priceless.
    Thanks for this Seneca.

    "We're right in the middle of a fucking reptile zoo! And somebody's giving booze to these goddamn things!"-Hunter S. Thompson ;-)>

    by rogerdaddy on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 11:11:38 AM PDT

  •  As an ex-trucker.... (21+ / 0-)

    I loved this the first time I read it, and I've re-read it every time it's been posted since.

    BK is 100% right on every single point.  Follow this advice and probably drive longer and safer.  Ignore it and suffer the consequences - your choice.  

    Silence is the enemy - Green Day 4360+ dead - Bring them home -8.00,-5.79

    by Miss Blue on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 11:32:14 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for republishing this, SD (12+ / 0-)

    I've read each of the previous incarnations, and they've reminded me of the driving wisdoms I learned at my daddy's knee.

    To wit: Drive as if everyone else on the road is not paying attention. Which they often aren't.

    And when the sign on the 18-wheeler says "If you can't see my mirrors, I can't see you," remember that it applies to cars, as well.

    And, finally, be aware that no car driven at 60 or 70 or 75 miles an hour can stop "on a dime."

    Me, I'm staying home for the rest of the weekend, no driving.

    If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.--A Boston cabbie, to Gloria Steinem, in the 1970s

    by Mnemosyne on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 11:34:15 AM PDT

  •  Easier driving (7+ / 0-)

    One good thing about Bush's recession is no one who has no business to be on the public highway is out there! My last road trip was a brief run on US 41 between Milwaukee and Oshkosh, and even for the Independence Day weekend, traffic was mighty light. There were some drivers intent on blowing my doors off, but for the most part, I was rolling up on vehicles while driving at five mph under the posted limit of 65. People are obviously concerned about the high cost of fuel.

    Et des boyaux du dernier prêtre Serrons le cou du dernier roi.

    by johnrhoffman on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 11:51:41 AM PDT

  •  Yesterday a coworker in his truck got rear ended. (9+ / 0-)

    He was stopped on an exceptionally short highway entrance ramp, waiting for a space long enough to enter opened up for him. I've been at this entrance ramp. The highway goes under another road, so the sharp curve of that ramp also moves downhill to meet the highway. With the earthen sound barrier hills, it's a sharp short downhill blind curve entrance ramp.

    The car came around the curve behind him. The driver was apparently looking left, intending to gun the engine and merge right in at speed. I doubt the driver had the chance to get his foot on the brake. My coworker felt the impact, but sitting in tons of truck he is like a concrete pillar. The car was almost certainly totalled. The driver is personally lucky my coworker was in that specific truck, or the car's low aerodynamic front end would likely have slipped under the truck's rear kept going until the driver's head was hitting the truck's steel bar bumper.

    The truck my coworker was in has a lower steel bumper by about 6 inches. That likely saved the driver's life, not to mention the possibility of an open-casket someday.

    Miseris Succurrere Disco

    by JayFromPA on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 12:00:33 PM PDT

  •  Powerful piece (6+ / 0-)

    I'm wary of big rigs on the road and stay as far way from them as possible. I've learned that while most truck drivers are expert and courteous, concerned only with getting where they are going safely, there are a few fun-loving maniacs among them.  There's nothing quite so terrifying as driving a little Ford Focus at 65 mph on the inside lane of a two-lane highway and suddenly being hemmed in on all sides but one by three of these behemoths. If at all feasible pull off the road, but that's not usually possible at 65.  At that point, you can't slow down, speed up, or change lanes.  About all you can do is pray for a fast death or a steep hill.  

    Never get too close to a big rig in front of you.  If it somehow happens, don't pull out without first checking the rear view mirror to make sure another one isn't roaring up behind you and yet another one isn't
    exceeding the speed of sound to pull alongside. Don't look to see if the drivers are grinning (because they always will be), just try not to panic, attempt to decrease your speed VERY gradually if the one behind will let you, and trust that, despite their twisted idea of entertainment, they probably don't want to die anymore than you do.  

    Sooner or later they will tire of scaring you to death and slow down, or let you pull out and pass. Or a blessed hill will arise.  Don't be a jerk and try for revenge by slowing in front of the first truck. You can't win and stay alive.  Just get the hell out of there.    

  •  We print this out and put copies in everyone's (6+ / 0-)

    xmas stocking. it's excellent advice and thanks for reposting.

    "For the cost of deploying one soldier for one year, it is possible to build about 20 schools." N. Kristof

    by UTvoter on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 12:08:54 PM PDT

  •  I hate this diary. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    karmsy, dotster, congenitalefty

    Semis and sedans should not be driving the same road.  

    The answer is trains.  I say this every year.  Maybe, in light of Deepwater Horizon, by the time the diarist is free again, we will have converted to a better way of travel/freight movement.

    It's time for trains. Infrastructure is money in the bank.

    by 88kathy on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 12:09:14 PM PDT

    •  But there'll always be need for trucks (9+ / 0-)

      to take goods from the trains to the locations where the goods are needed.

      And much of this same information applies to sharing the road with buses, albeit it on a smaller scale -- when I ride with my spouse on his bus, I'm amazed at some of the stunts pulled by folks who think they're invincible. (Fortunately he has excellent reflexes and a 20+ year safe driving record.)

      Don't let the facts hit your narrative in the butt on the way out -- Rachel Maddow

      by Cali Scribe on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 12:24:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And there is a need for sedans. They don't (0+ / 0-)

        belong on the same road with semi's.  Most of a semis' vision is a blind spot and they can't stop.  

        It's time for trains. Infrastructure is money in the bank.

        by 88kathy on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 12:33:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  tsk tsk (7+ / 0-)

          Yes, there are blind spots on tractor trailers. Yes, they can stop, but due to weight, it takes them longer.

          That said, here is what you should have learned from this article besides those two facts about freight haulers.

          1. Realize that a tractor trailer has blind spots. You can avoid these blind spots by positioning yourself so the driver can see you in his rear view mirrors.
          1. Realize that it takes a tractor trailer much longer to stop, that they are not as maneuverable as a car, and drive accordingly. Don't force a truck to brake, try to avoid forcing them to drop gears, realize the vehicle's limitations and pay attention to them.

          It is possible for sedans and big rigs to share the road. But if you are incapable of driving safely around them, you're the one who doesn't belong on the road, along with the paper readers, the moustache shavers, the mascara appliers, the GPS screen fixated, the cell phone yappers, the Big Mac devourers, and every other driver who makes the road a little more dangerous.

          THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN CONTROL PEOPLE IS TO LIE TO THEM. You can write that down in your book in great big letters. -- L. Ron Hubbard Technique 88

          by xenubarb on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 01:56:26 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Do not forget the nose-pickers (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Cali Techie, Seneca Doane, kyril, allep10

            and rubberneckers at other accidents.  Accidents can breed accidents. However, my father had an observation that in the case of stupidity, can you really call it an "accident" or should it be known by another name.

            It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. - Ansel Adams

            by Otteray Scribe on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 02:00:03 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  It's been my experience (3+ / 0-)

              that most accidents on the road are born of sheer stupidity.

              A friend of mine who recently retired from the CA Highway Patrol says it's not speed that kills, it's stupidity. Stupidity will kill you regardless of how fast your going, but it will happen a lot faster at 80 than it will at 65 or 55.

              What people seem to forget is that semi truck drivers are PROFESSIONAL DRIVERS. They are without a doubt the safest drivers on the planet. They are not the problem. Those of us who do not drive for a living are but mere amateurs. It is the casual driver who is the problem. There are people out there who never give the big truck lumbering down the road a second thought before they cut across three lanes of traffic in order to get to an exit.

              I drive A LOT. It's partially a function of being a part time musician in the SF Bay Area and showing dogs. I put over 200K miles on my car and it's barely six years old. As a result I see almost daily what stupidity does on the road and I've watched people blithely drive away from accidents they've left in their wake blissfully unaware they've possibly caused someone's injury or death.

              It's just another symptom of the general attitude of people in this country. The majority are on "auto pilot." They just go through their routine without thinking about it, without observing others around them, or considering the consequences of any of their actions or decisions. It's as if they are the only people on the entire planet or at least the immediate vicinity who matter. They go through their day without taking a moment to stop and THINK.

              When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace. -Jimi Hendrix -6.0 -5.33

              by Cali Techie on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 03:17:23 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  When the speed limit was 55 there were less (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Albatross, Cali Techie

                accidents, I thought I heard that.  You saw people drive away from accidents they caused.  You saw that?  

                It's time for trains. Infrastructure is money in the bank.

                by 88kathy on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 03:34:16 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  The fewer accidents going 55mph is a myth (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Albatross, Seneca Doane

                  However yes I've seen drivers cause accidents and not know it. It's caused by crossing multiple lanes on the interstate to get to an exit all at once. It causes people to slam on their brakes because they're startled and causes chain reaction accidents, many with injuries or fatalities. Because they weren't hit they are unaware of the mess they caused.

                  When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace. -Jimi Hendrix -6.0 -5.33

                  by Cali Techie on Mon Jul 05, 2010 at 12:54:04 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  The strangest thing I ever saw on the interstate (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Seneca Doane

                    someone couldn't decide whether or not to take the off ramp.  I know because they swerved several times.  Then their tires hit the gravel and they spun out.  We ended up looking at each other across several lanes of traffic.  They were stopped.  They accelerated and took the off ramp.

                    I wonder how you know all the facts of the accident.  What vantage point did you have?  Were you in the accident?  Did you stop?  How fast was everyone going?  What were the weather conditions?

                    I am googling about the 'myth' of it.  Are you coming from any source, how about a link.

                    It's time for trains. Infrastructure is money in the bank.

                    by 88kathy on Mon Jul 05, 2010 at 09:27:12 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I watched someone cross 3 lanes of traffic (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Seneca Doane

                      to get to an exit. I'm not talking someone changing lanes one at a time, I'm talking about someone crossing three lanes of traffic in less than a second in an attempt to get to an exit s/he was about to miss. This little move caused the drivers who were cut off to slam on their brakes. One happened to be about a car length in front of the semi who was in front of me in my lane.

                      The semi could not slow as quickly as the car in front of it. He had nowhere to go so he plowed into the car in front of him. I was able to come to a complete stop without running into the truck but only because my stopping distance was shorter than his and I backed off when I saw the bad driver begin his cut across traffic.

                      The person in the car in front of the semi was injured, but none of his injuries were life threatening fortunately. I was the one who called 911. The driver who cut across those lanes of traffic never looked behind to see the wreck s/he caused.

                      I know the facts of the accident because I was there.

                      People were just as stupid at 55 as they are at 85. The reason why it's a myth is because most auto accidents do not occur at highway speeds. There are only two causes of accidents and speed isn't one of them. The most common cause of accidents is stupidity. The second cause of accidents is mechanical failure. Neither can be prevented because you can't fix stupid and shit happens.

                      When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace. -Jimi Hendrix -6.0 -5.33

                      by Cali Techie on Mon Jul 05, 2010 at 11:16:19 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  If everyone on the road wanted to drive, there (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Seneca Doane

                        might be less of both.  Right now driving and mass consumption of oil is the only game in town.  There is a better way.  It won't be handed to us on a silver platter.  We have to work for it.  

                        The answer is mass transit.  

                        It's time for trains. Infrastructure is money in the bank.

                        by 88kathy on Tue Jul 06, 2010 at 06:02:14 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                  •  You may be mixing your statistics (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Seneca Doane

                    While some statistics show that the death rate has gone down since the 55 limit was lifted, other stats point to a higher rate of accidents and injuries...with Anti lock and air bags the people in the cars are surviving the accidents...but with injuries causing both health and auto insurance to rise...

                    It's time for trains. Infrastructure is money in the bank.

                    by 88kathy on Mon Jul 05, 2010 at 09:30:11 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Most accidents (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      88kathy, Seneca Doane

                      are not at highway speed or even on the highways. Most accidents occur on surface streets.

                      There are fewer deaths now thanks to modern technology. Speed does not cause accidents. It just makes things happen faster.

                      When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace. -Jimi Hendrix -6.0 -5.33

                      by Cali Techie on Mon Jul 05, 2010 at 11:18:07 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

            •  Failure to avoid collision. Everyone is driving (3+ / 0-)

              wrong all the time, it is up to you to avoid them.  That's what my dad said.

              It's time for trains. Infrastructure is money in the bank.

              by 88kathy on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 03:35:37 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  There is no reason a semi should have any blind (0+ / 0-)

            spots at all.  They should have something better than a little old tin mirror to navigate the highways.

            It's time for trains. Infrastructure is money in the bank.

            by 88kathy on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 03:31:08 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  It's true, you say this every time (7+ / 0-)

      I challenge you this: find every manufacturing facility, distribution center, retail grocer and chain store in your closest metropolitan area. Next, tell us all where you are going to route the freight tracks and neccessary sidings to load and unload them all.

      Try to imagine what your experience of traveling anywhere would be like if every cubic foot of freight capacity was suddenly converted from truck to rail. It's just not feasible in any world. Even if our entire distribution network was designed from the ground up with this ideal in mind, it would be totally unworkable.

      Besides the unrealistic expectation that your plan could ever work, the fact is that trucks and cars co-exist every day all throughout the world and people do stupid things and sometimes die because of them. This diary deals with the reality we live in and provides actual, workable strategies to deal with everyday situations and it saves people's lives.

    •  Trains simply aren't effecient for a lot of (5+ / 0-)


      You might notice that you never see anyone in the transportation industry, no matter how progressive, suggesting that we can do away with Trucks or individual passenger cars.

      Even France and Germany, with rail networks about as good as rail networks get, have large trucking industries.

      "Israel does not any longer occupy the West Bank or Gaza. They left." Rep. Weiner

      by JesseCW on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 02:59:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We must keep up as we are going. It is (0+ / 0-)

        impossible to get along without oil.  I said that semi's and sedans don't mix.  And they don't.  The people in the sedan die.

        It's time for trains. Infrastructure is money in the bank.

        by 88kathy on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 03:28:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  When two objects containing people (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          88kathy, Albatross, Seneca Doane

          try to occupy the same space at the same time, people die.  

          One part of minimizing that is getting bad drivers, professional and otherwise, off the road.

          The other part is requiring that all Commercial Drivers be paid hourly instead of by milage.  

          Now that we have GPS tracking, there's no reason not too (back in the day, the industry was exempt because, hey, a driver could just park under a bridge and sleep for an hour and lie about traffic).

          This measure alone could save 200-300 lives a year, if we compare the fatal accident rates of drivers paid hourly and those paid by the mile.

          "Israel does not any longer occupy the West Bank or Gaza. They left." Rep. Weiner

          by JesseCW on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 04:06:05 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Couple months ago, (8+ / 0-)

    I was walking home after lunch and saw a van, totally crushed-in on the driver's side--I think it was actually resting on its roof--on grass beside the 4-lane road. The van was electric-blue, with one of those shiny metallic finishes. Clearly, the ambulance had come and gone already, but the tow truck hadn't arrived yet.

    I stared in horror. I didn't observe the accident itself, and couldn't reconstruct the mechanics of it. One thing's for sure: the person driving that van, had gotten up that morning, thinking they were facing an ordinary day. Take the kids to soccer practice. Run errands. Whatever.

    Undoubtedly, for this poor driver, "it happened soooo fast..."

    Thanks for the diary.

  •  Thanks for re-posting this, SD (8+ / 0-)

    I sent it to my dil every time I saw it, my son's beautiful, funny wife who turned into a crazy person behind the wheel of a car. I don't know whether it was from reading this diary or having a baby, but she's now a cautious, polite, defensive driver.

    Let's keep it going, at least once a quarter.

    "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." ~ Voltaire

    by KelleyRN2 on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 12:17:32 PM PDT

  •  I remember.... thanks TBK, (4+ / 0-)

    and I have sent it out again as it bears repeating... often.

    My dad was a trucker for a period in his life.  I received a lot of warning and instruction from him, ... maybe not quite as descriptive and alarming as described by TBK, nevertheless, I got the message.

    Be SAFE everyone, and Happy Independence Day!

    And thank you, Seneca!

  •  I was hoping someone would do this. (7+ / 0-)

    The lessons in this diary are timeless and particularly well-suited to a young audience.  I've passed this on to many friends over the years, and they have given it to their children who were learning to drive.  Of course, it doesn't hurt us old farts to read and remember, either.  :-)

    Thanks, SD, for reposting it!

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 12:40:05 PM PDT

  •  Good luck, BK (9+ / 0-)

    Speaking of "the Laws of Physics", the first time I read this diary I was reminded of an old saw passed on to me by an old sailor of my acquaintance many years ago:  "Never fail to yield the right of way to the vessel with the greater gross tonnage".
    Makes perfect sense, doesn't it?  Who cares if you have the right of way if the other guy outweighs you by a factor of 100 and ain't stoppin'?...A concept equally true in sailboat vs. supertanker or pedestrian vs. SUV....

    Liberal = We're all in this together
    Conservative = Every man for himself
    Who you gonna call?

  •  Thank you, SD. (7+ / 0-)

    Priceless advice.

    No one will believe it's the Blues if you wear a suit, `less you happen to be an old person, and you slept in it.

    by dov12348 on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 12:54:37 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for the repost of the story. (6+ / 0-)

    I didn't see it the first time.

  •  I have this bookmarked. (8+ / 0-)

    Also, have made sure the younger drivers in our family have read it. My daughter, who is now in college came in a couple of days ago visibly shaken. An 18-wheeler was in an accident with a sedan less than a half mile from our house.  She said the sedan was mangled almost beyond recognition and the truck was on it's side. We do not know who was at fault but at this point it does not matter.  When forty tons of truck meets a 3,000 pound automobile, the four wheeler will lose every time.

    OT, but I have an historical connection to TBK that is relevant to this Fourth of July. His ancestor and my ggg & gggg-grandfathers all knew each other and fought together at the Battle of King's Mountain.  His ancestor, Joseph Greer, was the courier who took the news of the Patriot victory over the Redcoats to the Continental Congress. I had not known this history factoid until the evening he posted a comment in a diary about Joseph Greer.  A little ancestral research shows that this is a small world.  So, lift your glasses this day to TBK's grandfather and mine, as well as all the Patriots who assured us of being able to lift a toast to freedom this holiday.  Sláinte!

    It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. - Ansel Adams

    by Otteray Scribe on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 01:16:40 PM PDT

    •  one of mine was with one of yourn, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Albatross, Seneca Doane

      there in Tennessee...hungry, tired, invested in this new experiment. another had been there long, long before, centuries before...

      The Addington perpwalk is the trailhead for accountability in this wound on our national psyche. [ know: Dick Cheney's "top" lawyer.] --Sachem

      by greenbird on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 04:18:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks TBK (6+ / 0-)

    I've had a number of jobs that involved driving (courier, cabbie, body job, never tractor-trailer), and once taught driving. I've got 2 teen boys getting behind the wheel in the past couple of years. I've also come upon and been involved helping in the immediate aftermath of a fatal crash.

    This is one of the most compelling diaries I've read.

    I hope TBK is using his 'time off' to do more writing.

    "Turn off the AM Radio and get invited to your own life." - Jimmy Dore

    by stunvegas on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 01:47:01 PM PDT

  •  Over the last 25 or so years I have travelled (7+ / 0-)

    Interstate 95 quite a bit, especially between Richmond VA and the Philadelphia area. The two most dangerous habits I have seen drivers engage are 1) continuously jumping on the accelerator, brakes, and steering to try to go as fast as possible in heavy traffic and 2) riding at the speed limit or just above in the middle of the three lanes usually available. And these two habits intersect to create extremely dangerous situations.

    Stay to the right except when passing!

    "Who am I to give science the brush?" Sugarpuss O'Shea

    by semiot on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 01:54:31 PM PDT

    •  My "tooth grinding" beef? (5+ / 0-)

      Drivers who tailgate.

      I talked to a woman recently who bragged about telling her 16 year old son not to tailgate. "I told him to keep two car lengths back."

      At all speeds? I asked. She seemed to think this was fine.

      I pointed out that at sixty miles per hour, a car will travel about 80 feet in one second.  That's four car lengths. So her son, if he's two car lengths back, has one-half second to see a problem and react to it. Provided, of course, that he's paying full attention to the road and not talking with friends, listening to music or talking on a cell phone.  Which means that if he's two lengths back when the driver in front hits his brakes full on, he's going to crash into that car.  

      The rule to follow for space between cars is a minimum of one car length per ten miles per hour under optimal conditions....daylight, a dry road, good brakes, good tires and an alert driver.

      Yet every day I see people lines of people--five, eight, ten cars--driving one car length behind each other at 70 mph or better....because, of course, nothing's going to happen to them.

      Freedom has two enemies: Those who want to control everyone around them...and those who feel no need to control themselves.

      by Sirenus on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 02:43:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  For several years, there was an old pickup truck (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        semiot, Albatross, Seneca Doane

        that drove around our town.  It was a bit battered, but seemed to run well. Something bad must have happened to its rear bumper, because it had been replaced with a heavy "I" beam. The makeshift bumper was painted black, with neat white lettering across the web of the I-beam:


        Tailgating is a real problem around here. So bad in fact that someone rear-ended the Sheriff in his patrol car--when he stopped for a traffic light.  Yet, I do not recall ever seeing anyone following that old pickup truck too closely.

        It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. - Ansel Adams

        by Otteray Scribe on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 03:05:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  On Chesapeake bay bridge last week (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        semiot, Albatross, Seneca Doane

        heading towards eastern shore.  Cars ahead of us were slowed up going up the long slope of the bridge, an SUV driver in the lane next to us just didn't slow up.  A smash hard enough to crack his radiator and two ruined vacations, just because one driver didn't think about maintaining a safe distance. Not to mention all the people that got stuck behind that car-we were incredibly lucky.

        Democrats give you the Bill of Rights; Republicans sell you a bill of goods!

        by barbwires on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 03:26:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks, Seneca, for posting (10+ / 0-)

    TBK's original masterpiece and each incarnation are, as stated by others, some of the most valuable words ever written here.
    Bless his heart, and hopefully his stay in the old Yazoo won't be too much longer. Miss his wit and wisdom.
    Thanks, also, for posting the info on how to contact him.

  •  Classic Dkos post, (3+ / 0-)

    thanks for carrying on the tradition Seneca Doane.  

    We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet. -Stephen Hawking

    by satanicpanic on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 02:17:34 PM PDT

  •  Human vanity at work. (5+ / 0-)

    So many people have this comfortable emotional conviction that nothing will happen to their wonderful selves.

    I see this again and again. I once got into a car with a woman who drove us through heavy rain one car length behind other vehicles. I was in the back seat; she spent more time looking in the mirror while she talked to me than she did looking at the road. And she wasn't wearing her seat belt.

    Because, of course, nothing was going to happen to her. She was astounded when I told her I'd never drive with her again. She protested that she's "a good driver."  No, she is a stupid, vain human being who will someday end up killing someone. I told her so, and told her that it's not going to be me.

    I've never driven with her since.

    Freedom has two enemies: Those who want to control everyone around them...and those who feel no need to control themselves.

    by Sirenus on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 02:35:12 PM PDT

  •  driving with the pros (5+ / 0-)

    I spent four months driving cross country and back with a buddy after graduation from college.

    It generated many lessons:

    • what a beautiful, diverse, huge country we have
    • the most generous people live farthest from the cities (and often have the least)
    • giant swaths of middle America have no choice but to eat fast food if they are not eating at home
    • state police (particularly in the South) are reckless and ignorant fascists
    • the vast majority of truckers are professionals, you can save your life by learning to drive how they do

    One tip we learned from them was the quick high beam double pump, signaling ample room to merge. Instead of high beams you can also turn your lights off and on, quickly. This is practiced most commonly when someone has passed you on the left and wants to come back over. It lets them know that they have the space to come back over and you won't be doing anything stupid to reduce that.

    The points in the diary about paying attention to what other drivers are doing is key. Drifting back and forth within the edges of a lane is a drunk, a driver that is falling asleep or most common these days, a cell phone user. Random brake tapping and inconsistent speed changes are often the same. Get away from them and be prepared for the unexpected.

    Driving while using cell phones is deadly serious business. Driving while texting is the equivalent of Russian roulette. I don't drive much these days because I don't have to but I'd say a solid 80% of the idiotic drivers I come across are cell phone users. 15% are elderly. The remaining 5% are people that just don't know how to drive, period. When any of these people are driving in bad weather, pray.

  •  Once when I was in Japan for business, we (0+ / 0-)

    took a trip by tour bus - cannot remember which city.  I happened to glance down at a car driving by the bus, which made the man driving the car very happy.  He was wearing only a shirt and no pants, and apparently having people notice him caused him to access himself excitedly.

    True story, circa 1988.

    ...Son, those Elephants always look out for themselves. If you happen to get a crumb or two from their policies, it's a complete coincidence. -Malharden's Dad

    by slowbutsure on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 03:17:02 PM PDT

  •  Years ago (4+ / 0-)

    I produced an audio tape for for my State's DOT on the subject of safer auto driving around trucks. I interviewed scores of truckers and here are a few of their top warnings to auto drivers:

    1. Trucks, despite all their mirrors, have serious blind spots. Car drivers need to pass (with flashing lights) well ahead of the truck or stay well behind. Whatever you do, don't linger next to the truck. The truck driver may not know you are there and inadvertently change lanes right into your side.
    1. As stated above, when passing a truck, use your signals and don't reenter the truck's lane until you are a few hundred yards ahead. Again, never linger by the truck's side. Once you pass and reenter the truck's lane, maintain speed.  A truck has a forward blind spot, too. If you are too close to the front of the truck, the truck driver can't see you and you're playing with extreme danger. And as mentioned in this diary, a Semi can't stop anywhere near as fast as a car
    1. Some highways have emergency off-ramps at the bottom of hills specifically to accommodate trucks that have lost their brakes. To help deceleration, the ramps are constructed as an incline and include sand to aid in speed reduction. One trucker told me he lost his brakes and was about to use the emergency exit when he noticed a family picnicking on the sand. In other words, there are some really dumb people out there, so always drive defensively - and needless to say, stage your picnics in picnic areas.
  •  With wireless laptop card can read this while (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Albatross, Seneca Doane, Eric Nelson

    my wife drives. I always used to to the driving before I became able to surf the internet while riding. She is a much more defensive driver. She is more happy driving, as am I, here, reading your excellent post.

    12 hours from Llano in hill country near Austin to Santa Fe.  Fabulous blue sky vistas, white puffy clouds, with the occasional prairie dog, raptor and pronghorn antelope to keep it interesting.  She tries to alert me but sometimes I am so deep in reading DK that I am too slow looking up.

    I did take for about an hour and a half so she could rest her eyes. Wide open spaces is an understatement on this route across the TX Panhandle through East Central on to Santa Fe.  

    This last part of the trip is one of the most beautiful drives in the country,  I-25 near Las Vegas (NM) and Santa Fe.

    More trucks on that stretch, so we will be sure to keep I priorities straight, especially after having read this great human interest story.


    by divineorder on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 03:54:35 PM PDT

  •  I remember this diary from before. (4+ / 0-)

    Wish somone would remember it next time I'm overloaded with concrete and bobcat like tomorrow morning.

    "Don't fall or we both go" Derek Hersey

    by ban nock on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 04:19:12 PM PDT

  •  Thank you for posting this (4+ / 0-)

    It is very helpful. I've bookmarked it. I remember when I was in preschool, I quickly made a friend and we were inseparable. I'm not sure how long after I met him it was, but his mom fell asleep behind the wheel one night. The car flipped several times and I never saw my friend again. They never told me he died, but today I assume that's what happened. I've seen bad accidents, and I've been in a few that weren't as serious. I'm lucky. The faster everyone realizes that everyone's safety is everyone's responsibility, the better off we'll be.

    BTW -- Does anyone know if the prison in Yazoo City was hit by the tornado? When I saw what city it was in, my heart sank. Seems like yesterday I was livebloggingthe F4 that rolled through there last April.

    •  Ditto (4+ / 0-)

      I have read the read it again dammit diary yearly since it was written. I drive all day for work in a HHR and remember the advice all the time. Even if traffic is lite, I blinker and still wait til the trucker sees I am moving over.
      I print it out too and place it at work. Thank you for writing this and keeping it in our minds. I think it has saved my life once or 10 times.  Wish the bus drivers here would read it. They move over, then signal, even if I am already in that spot.  

      The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism." MLK

      by snoopydawg on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 05:38:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Funny, I was just thinking of posting this (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Albatross, Seneca Doane, Eric Nelson

    I even went and looked it up after seeing the driving diary a day or so ago.  Glad that you did it and hope folks heed the warnings.  I hope BK is all right and does rejoin us sometime in the future.

    "I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man'" Robbie Robertson

    by NearlyNormal on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 05:30:36 PM PDT

  •  After almost having several wrecks, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Seneca Doane, Eric Nelson

    I have now begun turning off my Blackberry when I get in my car. Georgia, not known for many reasonable laws, just passed one that provides penalties for driving while texting. It specifically provides penalties for anyone under 18 who uses an "electronic device" while driving.

    It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. -- Thomas Jefferson

    by AtlantaJan on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 05:43:16 PM PDT

  •  Excellent job SD. TBK coild have a future in (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Albatross, Seneca Doane

    driver safety instructional videos.

    This empirical knowledge is not taught or available to most drivers.

    'B' license training is more in depth, but nothing beats time on the road.

    Good timing too t'd & r'd

    I don't want your country back..I want my country forward - Bill Maher

    by Eric Nelson on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 06:51:07 PM PDT

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