Take it from a professional driver: put down the phone and drive

By Dale Brenaman

In my 30 years as a professional truck driver – the last 20 with UPS – I’ve logged nearly 2 million accident-free miles on the roads. I’ve seen an awful lot through the windshield – some good, some bad, some tragic.

One thing I see far too much is distracted driving. From my vantage point in my rig it’s easy to see into other vehicles around me, and frequently I see drivers texting, talking on the phone, adjusting the radio, even eating a bowl of cereal or putting on their makeup.

On behalf of everyone on the roads -- from professional truckers like me, to commuters heading to and from work, to families out with their kids for a Sunday drive – I have a request. A few of them, actually.

First, educate yourself about the hazards of distracted driving. Did you know you’re three times more likely to get into an accident if you’re distracted by a cellphone while driving? Or that every day, distracted drivers kill nine people, and injure over 1,000?

As a Captain on the Kentucky Road Team, I advise young people that texting is a triple distraction. It’s a cognitive distraction as your brain focuses on that text message that seems to demand an instant response. It’s a visual distraction as you look at your phone instead of the road. And it’s a physical distraction as you take at least one hand off the wheel to handle your phone.

Sending a text means taking your eyes off the road for about five seconds. Did you know that in that time, at 55 mph, your car travels the length of a football field? At 70 it’s closer to two football fields. That’s like driving with your eyes closed, and that’s all the time it takes to cause an accident that could cost someone their life, and change yours forever.

Don’t believe me? Ask a young man I know. He briefly took his eyes off the road, ran a Stop sign, and a woman was killed. He’s an EMT now, spending the rest of his life trying to pay it back for the tragedy he inadvertently caused.

Second, pay attention! Seriously. Remember, driving is a privilege and a responsibility, not a right. Your actions on the road could mean life or death not only for you, but for your passengers, other motorists, and pedestrians. Ultimately, only you can make the personal choice to do the right thing. Because the number of potential distractions behind the wheel continues to grow, we ALL must challenge ourselves to make safe choices every time we drive. So put down the phone, or your breakfast, quit fooling with the radio … and drive.

Finally, drive defensively. Driving is an active – not a passive – activity. Instead of just shifting into Drive, cranking the radio and hanging your arm out the window, approach your trip like a professional driver. Check your side and rearview mirrors every 5-8 seconds. Be aware of traffic signs, pedestrians, other vehicles, and approaching intersections. Always leave space between your vehicle and the one in front of you, to give yourself time to react if another driver does something unexpected. Even if you’re not distracted, there’s a good chance another driver is, and the best way to stay safe is to watch out for the other driver.

 

Dale Brenaman lives in Lexington and has driven tractor trailers for over 30 years, 20 at UPS. He is a captain on the Kentucky Road Team, whose members travel the state to help educate civic clubs, churches, schools, business and professional associations, and the motoring public, on highway safety. Brenaman is a three-time Kentucky State Truck Driving Champion and placed third in the 2017 National Truck Driving Championship for precision driving.

 

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