It was only for a minute…

Collision between two cars on the asphalt road

I realize that in my job, I see a lot of doom and gloom and negativity – and that makes more jaded than most about truck and automobile crashes, industrial or workplace incidents, or personal injury scenarios – but I’m really seeing a strong trend here and I’d like to help prevent more of the same.

First – please note that I didn’t use the term “accident.”  These aren’t accidents.  They’re crashes, wrecks, incidents, and even catastrophes, but they’re not “accidents.”  The only “accident” I can fathom is where lightning strikes a tree and it falls on your house or car.  There’s no way to prevent something like that, and we just have to deal with it.  In every single one of these crashes, wrecks, or incidents, they occurred because someone made a mistake and injured themselves or others.

A trend I’m seeing involves drivers – usually of a commercial vehicle – either miss a turn or hit the shoulder for some other reason.  It may be to take a phone call, read and answer a text, or check directions.  It’s better to pull over and answer that text or look at your maps program, yes, but it can also wait until you can pull off into a parking lot or take an exit ramp.  I applaud people for not texting while driving or interacting with their phone while looking up directions.  It seems to be what happens next that causes the most problems – the driver then backs up on the shoulder, or backs out into the road, in order to take that turn they missed or to turn around…and WHAM.  They hit someone or someone hits them.

We think, it seems, that because we’re only doing something for a minute or a few seconds, that it won’t cause any issues.  We also don’t realize that no one ever plans to have a crash or wreck.  Who would?  You’re making a to-do list, and you drop in, go to the store, go by the dry cleaners, stop at the post office, and at exactly 10:13 am, a kid will kick a ball into the street and then go running after it, and I’ll swerve and run my truck into a pole.  Nope – not one of us has ever planned to have a wreck.

There are two very high-profile groups of people that are being involved in the crashes I’m talking about, and it’s because both groups deliver or pick up things and follow written or GPS-derived directions:  Tow operators and truck drivers.  Tow drivers, especially, have a job that centers around getting directions and following directions, and going to a place you haven’t driven to before happens several times each day.  You miss your turn, whip off the road and grab the shoulder, check your phone – and what happens next will make or break you.  People jump back into traffic without looking, start backing up and hit someone or some thing, or stay in place too long and get hit.

I can give you a list of at least 20 scenarios that I’ve seen recently that would drive home my point on all of this, but I think you get it by now.  If you miss a turn, don’t slam on your brakes and pull over, and then back up to catch the turn.  Keep going, find a good, safe, and legal place to turn around, and then take the turn you missed.  If you get a text, it can wait.  It can wait until you’re in a parking lot or other safe area to pull into.  Following these simple guidelines, I feel can reduce these horrific crashes by 95%.

One last thing – most people I know have never been sued.  It’s a devastating situation to be in, and one I wouldn’t wish on anyone.  Individual employees get sued during crashes like these because you have absolutely ZERO, NADA, NO protection under the law through your employer if you’re negligent.  You don’t have protection under your employer’s umbrella (insurance, management, pay, benefits) for anything that you do, actually.  Ask someone who has been in a crash like I’m describing, especially in a commercial vehicle.  Everyone is named in the suit.  

Everyone.  You, your company, your company’s insurance company, the manufacturer of your truck, the dispatch service that sent you to where you were going – everyone.  And guess what?  Everyone on that list, except you, is covered by insurance and legal precedence.  Everyone except you.  You’re on your own.  I can’t imagine having to explain to my wife that we’re going to lose our house and her new car because I did something stupid in my truck at work and caused a crash that hurt or killed someone.  I promise you, though – that’s a conversation you’ll have to have.  Run that one by the wife or husband, just for reaction.