Drivers of Various Vehicles

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We all speak from ignorance on occasion, even when we think we’re well informed or justified in the opinion. Sometimes the conversation helps us understand that and sometimes it helps us get closer to what reality really is. Sometimes it does both.

After a kids’ class at the dojo last week, I had a conversation with one of the moms while she waited for a cab to take her and her son home. The conversation started with class, moved to the weather (because the local cab company is always busier on rainy nights, which this was, so she had longer to wait), moved to commuting and driving, and finally to crazy drivers.

It’s not hard to admit that there are crazy drivers on the road, and probably quite a few of them. Who we perceive those crazy drivers to be can often depend on our experience. For the past dozen years or so, something like 85% of my driving time has been spent on highways. It’s a commuting thing. So my experience of crazy drivers comes down to three main types (granted with a few outliers):

  1. Idiots in cars/vans/SUVs who take stupid chances and drive way to fast, thinking the rules of the road don’t apply to them because they’re important.
  2. Idiots on motorcycles who don’t think there are any rules of the road, or even guidelines.
  3. Transport drivers who work under a different set of rules than the rest of us.

All three categories of drivers came up, but here’s the point I mention she admitted to being biased because her husband drives a truck. But while she told me she believed there are a lot of really good transport drivers, she also said there were stupid people driving big trucks, and stated there were lots of them.

I’m not sure if the percentage is any higher in transport drivers than it is in the general driving population, but because of the size of the vehicles, they’re far more noticeable. My perception of how the trucking industry works (perception, mind you – I only have second hand information to base my opinions on) is that it’s the short haul drivers who have most of the crazies behind the wheel. And most of them aren’t really crazy.

I live in eastern Ontario, and not in the nation’s capital or all that close to Toronto, so there’s really just one major highway, and there are a lot of transports running the Toronto to Montreal corridor along it. These folks are frequently on a very tight timeline, forced on them by their employers and competition. They have to be somewhere specific by a certain time and there’s not a lot of give in the schedule. They can’t slow down and they can’t care about anything other than their deadline.

I get it.

I also get that when the weather sucks, the deadlines don’t change. Remember they drive for a living and be honest: most of them are pretty good at the driving part. They have the experience, and the skill, and the mass to stay on the roads at higher speeds in worse conditions. They’re safer at higher speeds than I would be in their place.

But when they’re at or just over the speed limit in poor conditions, if they’re not endangering themselves, they’re absolutely endangering me and anyone else they pass who isn’t as comfortable driving in crappy weather but doesn’t have a choice.

The long haul drivers I think are a lot more relaxed, btw. There’s still pressure to get where they’re going, but I think there’s more flex in how long they have to get there. A day rather than a time. I could be wrong about that, though.

This was just a conversation, not an argument and no efforts of one of us to convince the other. No opinions changed, I think, at least not directly, and I don’t know that we were all that far apart anyway. But the fact that the conversation happened made me think a little bit more about my driving habits and perceptions.

Most of us drive a car/van/pickup/SUV, something in the same general size range. That’s what we’re taught to drive and that’s what we spend our time in, so that’s what we see. Transports are bigger than we are and we should see them, but they’re usually going a little (or a lot) slower than we do so are almost part of the scenery. We don’t really notice them unless they’re in our way. When I think about how long it took me to really understand what “this vehicle makes wide turns” really means, I don’t get how I could have been so oblivious for so long.

On the other side of things, motorcycles and bicycles are a lot smaller than we are. So much smaller, they’re not a threat of any kind. So we don’t see them. I think I’m good at seeing cyclists, but I’m probably not as good as I think I am, and I’ve thought about that every time a transport has jumped out in front of me since that conversation last week.

Perception is not reality, but we react to our perception of reality.

I need to thank her for making me think about my driving perceptions a little more.

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