If you think about the last time you were in traffic, you may not consider most people to be good drivers, that’s for sure!
I’m the first to holler when I see an unthinking driver cut off another vehicle, especially when the vehicle cut off is a tanker hauling flammable liquid or other hazardous material. They can carry a minimum of 3,000 US gallons of liquid, and on up. (I’ve heard the average is 8,000 gallons.)
The weight of what’s being hauled varies from about 6 lbs. to 7 lbs. per gallon because gasoline is less dense than water, plus the density varies by temperature. In any event, the load of gasoline itself might weigh from 18,000 lbs. to 48,000 lbs. That’s just the load and it’s flammable!! An empty tanker truck might weigh 34,000 lbs. So a loaded tanker on average might weigh from 52,000 to 82,000 lbs. (26 to 41 US tons). Federal Standards for commercial vehicles are complex but limit gross vehicle weight to 80,000 lbs. on the Interstate Highway System. Laws in various states may allow more weight off the Interstate and on state highway networks.
Even with baffles inside the tank to help stabilize the load, a tanker has a high center of gravity and is difficult to drive. If it’s not fully loaded, the tanker may start to sway from side to side at highway speeds. At 65 mph, it takes at least 525 feet on a dry, level surface for any loaded rig to stop after the driver perceives the danger. So don’t cut him off, people! It might take him (or her) a greater distance than that to stop, and chances are you and several other vehicles are going to get slammed. And it will be your fault. No one wants that on their conscience.
Sadly, some individuals will never learn they are personally responsible for not causing harm to other people. I’ve given up trying to determine why such people don’t even drive carefully enough to consider their own futures and their families’ lives to be important. Yet it is our responsibility. Although not in the Hippocratic Oath – as formerly believed – “First, do no harm…” has long been associated with the practice of medicine. (Obviously, that axiom is not always followed or there would not be 85,000 malpractice lawsuits filed every year in the US.) Doing no harm should apply to every aspect of our lives.
The Responsible Driver
Outside of people who shouldn’t be driving at all, most people are good drivers who stay alert and obey traffic laws. If this weren’t so, the carnage on our roads would be apocalyptic and news of it, unpublishable. None of us left alive would be driving anywhere much, not even in a Humvee.
From choice I drive a lot fewer miles than I used to but the number of near-misses I see on city streets and freeways can’t be counted. As I’m traveling around, I see many other drivers practicing good driving habits and I’m very grateful they do. Thousands of drivers in California are imported with different attitudes from other states and countries, myself included.
Some or many imported California drivers have brought their known bad habits with them. Personally I was taught to drive by a Chicago cop who didn’t mess around when it came to attitude. His teachings were later reinforced by a defensive driving class that was mandatory for all phone company managers at the time. I still hang back from the traffic in front of me as often as I can without clogging up traffic, unless it’s led by bullying tailgaters. No way to please them when you’re already in the #3 or #4 lane. But we need to leave ourselves an “out” in any kind of driving situation.
Even when we have a responsible attitude and are good drivers, a cushion of space on all sides is really our best protection from idiots, from livestock in the road, from bad weather, and just plain mechanical or human failure. And let’s not cut off tanker trucks or other big rigs! With notable exceptions known as rolling sigalerts, most big rig drivers are not irresponsible clowns or bandits. They’re controlling too much weight and trying to prevent future mayhem. Most won’t take the chance of showing off. They just want to get home to their families, too.