On the way to work I had listened to a CBS broadcast in which Charles Kuralt had criticized truckers.
Most truckers drive faster than the 55-mile-an-hour limit, Kuralt said. If you get in their way they tailgate you, give you the air horns and try to pressure you into going faster or getting out of their way. Eventually they pass you on the right at 70 miles an hour.
Kuralt has been on the raod for CBS for the past decade and does a lot of highway driving. It seems reasonable to assume that this careful reporter had good basis for his charges. However, I do think we ought to keep in mind that not every person who drives a truck these days is really a professional "trucker." Trucks are now being driven by men and women in all walks of life, some of them mighty poor drivers.
When I got to the office, I found a letter that took my mind right back to Kuralt's broadcast. The letter was from Bob Fachet of Bowie. He wrote:
"I saw an incident today I just couldn't keep to myself. A truck was racing down Route 3 in Bowie weaving in and out of traffic. The driver got stuck in the left lane behind a woman who was going the maximum 50 but wouldn't pull right because she was apparently planning to make a left turn in a mile or so.
"The guy finally passed her on the right, cut in front of her, tapped his brakes to scare her and then pulled back into the right lane in time to pull off at a gas station.
"I'm not writing about this idiotic behavior, which after all is commonplace. It was the name of the truck: Safety Systems, Inc."
Well, when old man Kraft drove his own wagon to deliver fresh cheese every morning, it was a little easier to identify who was responsible for what. These days, identifying the driver of a specific truck or bus or company car involves data on time, place, make of vehicle, license numbers and other factors. In the end, the investigator ends up with a driver who says there must be some mistake; he would never do a thing like that. And for all the investigator knows, the driver may be telling the truth. There could have been a mix-up in the input data.
One thing is clear, however. Somebody out there must be driving like a madman.
We all see frequent manifestations of "aggressive" driving, and we all pass smashed up vehicles and wonder what specific act of hostility caused the accident. It is of little consequence whether a disproportionate amount of blame lies with truckers or with the drivers of passenger cars, or whether it is perhaps equally shared by the two groups. What matters is that the price of bad manners on the highway is disfigurement, dismemberment, and sometimes death.
Instead of blaming each other, we should all concentrate on our own shortcomings behind the wheel. When you're late for an appointment, do you drive with exactly the same care and patience as when you have worlds of time? Neither do I. And that, I think, is the grave in which thousands of accident victims lie buried.