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Alas, Cars and Babies Don't Come With Instructions.

Cars are getting safer, but accidents like this are becoming commonplace.

I've been driving 2500 miles per week for past 14 years, and I've seen a LOT of bad driving. Long gone are the days of widely available high school Driver Ed. classes... and the movies they showed to scare the crap out of us--

Quite naturally, I suppose, the genre of vintage Driver Ed. films has developed a cult following. Here are a few of the all-time classics:

"The Last Date" (1949)

"Shock" (1959)

These movies were quite gory-- in retrospect, almost comically macabre-- but they worked at least a little on us impressionable youths of yesteryear. Sadly, largely gone along with hands-on Driver Ed. is the baseline literacy sufficient to read road signs and maps. But what we DO now have are electronic distractions like cellphones, 7" GPS screens, and infotainment systems that take our eyes and brains from the road for precious and potentially dangerous seconds.

And for some strange reason, people are especially careless around trucks:

"I'll be home in five minutes, honey! I almost missed my exit, but some really nice truckers let me in."

Based on my personal observations from my high perch in a tractor-trailer, here are some helpful pointers for safely navigating our roads and highways:


"Running lights" is a terrible invention. People THINK they've turned their lights on, but mistakenly fail to turn the switch all the way. As a result, the headlights are on, but the tail lights are off, making one's vehicle nearly invisible to those of us behind it. I'm seeing this several times per night driving shift, and it is a good way to get turned two-dimensional by a 100,000-pound double tractor-trailer.


Now that you've got your lights all the way on, please use your high-beams ONLY when no cars are ahead of you AND there is no oncoming traffic. High beams are blindingly bright to other drivers, even in our rear-view mirrors.


The second-worst automotive invention might be cruise control. We truckers drive vehicles that are commonly governed (mechanically restricted) to 65 MPH. So if you set your cruise control to 65, it is in reality often set for slightly below that. This means that a truck driver will unwittingly creep up on you to an unsafe following distance. If you MUST set your cruise control on a 65 MPH highway, consider setting it for 69, and then carefully pass trucks as you come upon them. Trust me, you won't get arrested, but you WILL stay a safe distance from vehicles big enough to crush you like a beer can.


...or at least those that take your eyes from the road. 65 MPH equals some 95 feet per second; three seconds on your cellphone or infotainment system, therefore, means 295 feet, nearly the length of a football field. A lot can go wrong along that much pavement.

And finally,


There are certainly a lot of a-hole truckers out there who drive recklessly, aggressively, and/or irresponsibly. Nearly all big rigs post "How's My Driving?" phone numbers... turn them in (if you can do so safely, i.e., with a hands-free phone) or else call 911 if you honestly think they might kill somebody. Do NOT mess with the driver yourself, like the white male 50-something Holbrook, MA Internal Medicine specialist did to me as described in my earlier essay ANATOMY OF A REFUND--

"I'm a truck driver, and two weeks ago someone road-raged me... blatantly and unsafely. We were on a busy interstate, and he slowed down to 20 MPH right in front of me... close enough to make whatever passive-aggressive point he wanted to make, but also close enough that I could read his vanity plate. After a few minutes on the Internet I now know his name, his address, his profession, his job title and workplace, his phone numbers, everything. I have a photo of his house, and I even considered sending him a Christmas card, but decided not to."

For two bucks we can trace your plate; after 5 minutes online, we'll know your spouse's birthday** and your home's floor plan.

Safe travels, everyone!


**Escaped Nazi Adolph Eichmann, though surgically disguised, was captured in Argentina when he was spotted by Israeli intelligence agents bring home flowers for his wife's birthday. Just sayin.'

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