Monday, April 14, 2014

Pay Attention

Pay Attention

April 14, 2014 

I have been a licensed driver both in the State of Virginia and the State of Tennessee for many years now. Up to this point, I’ve had one speeding ticket and thank the Good Lord above; I’ve not had any accidents. Up until a few years ago, I had never really given much thought to the subjects that I would like to talk about today. But, having been on the other end of both situations, I thought they would be valid topics and something a little different. 

We are all taught to not let things distract us while we are driving – however in this ever changing, instant gratification society with cell phones, we are constantly connected with texts, emails, calls, etc. that all come flying at us when we’re behind the wheel – it seems nearly impossible to not get distracted even if only for a second or two.  When I pass drivers that are paying more attention to their phone than to their driving I just want to have a loud speaker on my car where I can scream at them to “Shut up and Drive!!!”  Alas, as agitated as I get with the cellphone drivers, this is still not either of the two subjects for this writing. 

Where I live is very rural. There are all types of farms all around the area. Farms mean tractors, hay wagons, trucks pulling trailers, and this kind of thing on the road with all of the regular traffic. I have always tried to be respectful to the farmers that I’ve passed along the road. Like when I get behind the big tractor of my dairy farmer neighbor out on the main road, I slow down, put my flashers on, and laze behind him until he turns off or until I do. He’s got just as much right to be out on that road as I do. But until my husband and I started doing some minor (very minor) farming of our own, I had never really paid much attention to how my fellow road riders treat slower moving or loaded down vehicles. 

In my eighteen plus months of dealing with horses, I’ve only ever ridden in a truck pulling a loaded horse trailer twice. I have never driven a vehicle pulling a horse trailer period. Now common sense would tell that it is harder to stop a vehicle pulling a trailer even if that trailer is empty. Even if that trailer has brakes of its own, they still will not stop on a dime. Also, if you’re not very careful, that trailer could jack knife and come around the side of the truck, and possibly flip over if you try to stop too quickly. But, if you have livestock – horses, cows, etc. – in a trailer you really cannot stop suddenly as you’ll cause the animals to fall and possibly be seriously injured. Now I don’t know how many of you reading this know much about horses, but that trailer floor is not skid resistant and their hooves are not like the non-skid treads on the bottom of your favorite hiking boots. I can also just about guarantee you, that as soon as you load a horse into a trailer one of the first things they’re going to do is poop and more than likely, before you get to your destination, they’re going to pee. Keep in mind that all of this goes on the floor of the trailer and that does not help in any way, shape, or form with the slippery part. So combine the moving trailer with a slippery floor and an animal that doesn’t have non-skid boots on, and you’ve got a possibility any time you put one in a trailer of getting one seriously hurt. For any of you out there that have hauled animals, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that the load you’re hauling is far more valuable than any ding-dong that pulls out in front of you. So my words of advice to those drivers out there not hauling animals around in a slippery, moving box behind your truck: PAY ATTENTION to what you’re doing when you see these vehicles coming toward you. Remember that they can’t stop quickly. Remember that all turns and some curves are going to be taken wider than a normal vehicle. Remember that the left wheel of the trailer will generally need to stay on the yellow line in the middle of the road so that the right wheel doesn’t run off the shoulder. Remember that you need to not follow so closely behind that trailer – you are not practicing your NASCAR drafting, as you will not be able to stop if something happens with that truck/trailer combination. Remember that if you’re stopped behind one of these vehicles at a red-light that more than likely, the driver is going to let the vehicle ease back ever so slightly as the gears engage and it starts to pull off – you cannot burn rubber with a load of animals in a trailer. But MOST IMPORTANTLY, remember, if you cause me to wreck because you’re being stupid and you hurt one of my animals, you’d better be prepared for my wrath unless said wreck completely knocks me out or kills me in the process (I’m betting that last statement goes for any animal lover who is transporting their beloved pets). 

Whilest on the subject of farming and trailers, not only do you need to pay attention to trailers full of animals, but trailers hauling tractors/farm equipment and trailers hauling loads of hay. Same thing applies here for the not being able to stop part but with hauling hay, that’s usually done by pulling a hay wagon which is NOT your typical trailer. These wagons were not meant for speed. They were simply meant to follow behind a tractor/baler combination and carry bales of hay to the barn. For some farmers, their hay fields are miles away from their barns and that requires them to pull these loaded hay wagons up and down roads to get to their destination. These wagons also tend to weave as they get up to a certain speed on paved surfaces, which makes them a little more difficult to handle. Same “Remembering” rules apply to this to. I guess more than anything to remember here is just simple, common courtesy. These folks have a right to be out on the road. Sure the speed might not be that fast and sometimes they take up the majority of the road. But really, is it going to kill you to pull over to the edge of the road to let them pass or to be more courteous or patient while they’re traveling near you on the roads?

The other rant that I have for this writing is to pay attention to those riding motorcycles. With the warmer weather now, there will be more and more of these on the roads. As a car driver, I’d never really paid much attention to the motorcycle riders. As a motorcycle rider/driver however, I most definitely paid attention to being out on the road with all of the bigger, enclosed vehicles. Trust me when I tell you, even though motorcycles are smaller and do not weigh as much as a car, they are twice as hard to stop as your average car or SUV. You CANNOT stop quickly on a bike. If you do, one of two things is going to happen. You’re either going to lock up the front brakes and go over the handlebars, or you’re going to lock up the back brakes and lay the thing down. Either way, you’re going to wind up with road rash – even if you’ve got on leathers – and quite possibly a concussion – even if you’re wearing a helmet – or worse. So DON’T pull out in front of an oncoming bike just because you think you’ve got plenty of time and you’re bigger than the bike is. Keep in mind when you’re on a multilane highway that a motorcycle rider could possibly be in your blind spot as you start to change lanes so look and look carefully. Some motorcycle models don’t have a loud Harley sound to them so you might not even know that one is nearby. Trust me when I tell you that that rider is not only focusing on operating that bike, but they’re also focusing on the mass of vehicles around them. It is not an easy job. Do not tailgate a motorcycle in any way, shape, or form. You never know when something could go wrong or when the driver could lose control of the bike. Would you be able to live with yourself knowing that you’d just run over someone because you were playing “It’s Bristol Baby” on the local highway? Remember to PAY ATTENTION to these riders out there. Be sure that if you see a large group pass you by that you wait a few extra moments to make sure that they all have passed by. Again, it is simple, common courtesy that needs to be followed when out there on the highways!!

I know that there are many days when I get to the house and don’t remember anything of my roughly seventeen mile trip. We all have tons of things on our minds, we get distracted by a phone call or text message sounding on our cell phones, we’re paying too much attention to singing the song on the radio at the top of our lungs, or any other number of possible things that could detract from the job of driving a 7,000 pound speeding bullet down the highway. All’s I’m really saying here is PAY ATTENTION to what’s around you. Look out for each other and think that one day you might be that person pulling a trailer full of livestock that needs a break from the drivers around them, or you might be that person pulling a fully loaded, weaving hay wagon down a curvy road where everyone you pass wants to crowd you, or you might be that motorcycle rider that everyone and their brother has pulled out in front of on any given day. Ask yourself if you’d be rednecking those drivers if it was your dad, mom, brother, sister, grandma, grandpa, or anyone else that you hold near and dear to you; because that rider or driver is someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, friend, wife, husband. That license that we carry in our wallets that says that we are legal drivers of those motor vehicles are more than just a piece of plastic – or at least they should be more. They should also remind us that we’re responsible when we are out there on the road, not only for our own safety but for the safety of those that we pass. Don’t be the distracted car driver that takes out a motorcycle because you reach down to check the newest text message on your phone. Don’t be the one that is responsible for someone having to put down several horses because you caused the truck and trailer hauling them to wreck and they’re hurt more seriously than they can be helped by conventional medicine. 

So…PAY ATTENTION…and come back to read another blog story/rant at a later date!!

Stay Safe Out There!!!!

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