Dangerous Mile

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by Bob (Ram) Muessig


     As a professional driver, I have covered hundreds of thousands of miles over much of the United States and Canada. All these miles have been safe ones, but I still face one dangerous mile. I hope that I will never have to meet it "up close and personal". That dangerous mile is still out there, waiting for the opportune moment when my concentration and attention go slack for even the tiniest fraction of a second.

     Even though I consider myself retired, as far as professional driving is concerned, I still drive a "truck" - my RV. I find that I must do things just as I did when I drove for a living - use my checklist, do my walk-around inspections, check my tires, brakes, engine systems, lights, and all those things associated with an RV like food, water, bedding, etc. You know, when I stop to think about it, nothing has really changed at all except the rig that I drive. I still pull a container that has furniture in it, but now I live in that container as well. It’s our home.

     If you listen to the news in the mornings and evenings as I do, you may be led to believe that there are a lot of dangerous miles in every city, town, or community in every county and state in the Union. But you would be wrong in believing this. The simple fact is, there is ONLY ONE MILE that can be considered dangerous. OK, OK, I know...where is it? Before I tell you that little secret, let me go over a few things regarding driving...safe driving.

     First, consider the fact that there are only seven types of accidents and places or ways that they happen. We’ll start with number seven because it is the least harmful to life or property. It is the single-vehicle accident. Most accidents of this type occur at night on a lonely stretch of unlighted road. Many times, this accident happens at a place where the highway curves. It happens because the driver of the vehicle is tired. The vehicle simply leaves the road and the driver is not alert enough to react in time to prevent it. If life is lost, it is usually the driver’s and no one else’s.

     How do you prevent this type of accident? Get plenty of rest. Stop often and stretch. Driving with the radio turned up and the windows open just won’t cut it. All that will happen is that you’ll probably get tired of the radio and your ears will get cold. Then you’ll roll up the window, turn on the heat, and fall asleep because you’re nice and warm and cozy. Bad idea! If you’re rested to begin with, you’ll be OK. Don’t drive if you’re tired.

     Accident numbers two and three: You rear-end someone or they rear-end you. What are you going to do to keep this from happening? a) Don’t tail-gate. Allow at least two seconds (if you’re driving your car) between you and the vehicle ahead. If you’re driving your RV, it’s better to allow at least five seconds or more. Don’t be reading a book or hunting for a cigarette. If the cell phone rings or you need to make a call, get off the road and stop. THEN talk on the phone. b) Keep an eye on those rear-view mirrors. If someone is too close behind you, slow down just a little at a time. Soon, the tail-gater will pass. You can then watch him/her have the accident and you can be a witness instead of a participant.

     Numbers four and five: You hit someone while passing or get hit while being passed. Either way, these two types of accidents can most often be prevented by keeping your mind on the job at hand - driving. Make sure there is plenty of time and room to pass, so that you don’t have to squeeze quickly in front of somebody to keep from being hit by oncoming traffic. Besides, you’re driving your RV on vacation, so why hurry? You really don’t need to pass, do you?

     People pass me all the time. What do I care? The funny thing is, they rarely get anywhere more than 2 or 3 seconds ahead of me and, most of the time, they’re caught at a stop light a block or so away. Then, as I approach, the light turns green and I cruise through, passing them!

     Preventing the "side-swipe" type of accident while passing or being passed is not difficult if you watch what is going on around you. If you see someone moving too close, or beginning to change lanes in front of you or beside you, you can move away or slow down, giving them room to do whatever it is they’re doing. "Be alert and watchful of your surroundings" is the best advice I can offer in order to avoid accidents.

     Number six is is the accident that occurs at intersections. This type of accident is the most common of all, and often may involve more than just two vehicles. I have seen accidents at intersections that involve pedestrians, cyclists (motor or pedal), and motor vehicles. This particular accident can be costly in terms of property damage and personal injury.

     How do I avoid accidents at intersections, you ask? Follow the same basic advice I offered earlier. Stay alert and watchful of your surroundings. NEVER be the first one into the intersection when the light changes from red to green. Don’t go through an intersection on a yellow light unless you cannot stop safely.

     Be especially watchful of bicycles. Many riders don’t know that they are subject to the same rules of the road as are motor vehicles and you’ll find them running stop signs and stoplights, riding on the wrong side of the road, and not using signals. When you see a cyclist, exercise extreme caution. The same thing applies to children. If you’re going down the street, and a ball rolls out in front of you, you can bet there’s a kid right behind it. Let’s face it. RVs are heavier than many other vehicles, and you just can’t stop as quickly, so don’t try. Plan ahead so that you don’t have to slam on those brakes. Allow time and room to stop safely.

     The last type of accident is the most deadly of all...the head-on collision!. This kind of accident is most often fatal to all persons in the vehicles involved. The good news is that it can be avoided. Never put youself in a position where you would be in a head-on collision. Often, this accident occurs as a direct result of poor planning while passing. Never pass on hills, curves, or other places where you simply cannot see far enough ahead.

     To avoid the hazards of that dangerous mile, stay alert and refreshed. Stop often and stretch. Don’t drive when you’re tired, ill, or on medication. Above all, NEVER drink and drive. These simple steps will help you be a safer driver.

     Now, where’s that dangerous mile? Well, all those miles behind you are now and forever safe miles, right? And the ones two miles ahead...you haven’t gotten to those yet, so they’re safe ones, too. That dangerous mile must be...you got it...just ahead of your front bumper!

     With that in mind, have a safe trip and a most enjoyable stay, wherever your destination. Just be sure to use all the careful planning and safe driving techniques for the trip back home. Be seein’ ya!

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