Going down the wrong path
by David Kolman
I had a close call last week. I was trucking north around a sharp curve on a rural two-lane road. Coming up toward on me on the southbound lane was a large RV pulling a car on a trailer. He was way over the double yellow line and in my path of travel.
I was forced to shift right, so much so that that right steer tire dropped of the edge of the pavement. The rest of the right-side tires followed. The drop-off was onto the loose soil of a deteriorated shoulder.
I had a heck of a time maneuvering safely back onto the highway – all the while loudly expressing my “opinions” of the driver of that RV, hoping he could hear what I thought about him.
I did what I think most truckers would do in a similar situation. I slowed down and attempted to steer back onto the roadway. No easy task, as the pavement edge “scrubbed” the tires. Being cautious not to over-steer so I wouldn’t re-enter the roadway at a sharp angle and possible lose control of my rig, I gradually got back onto the pavement and continued on.
An hour or so later when I took a break at a truckstop, I got to visiting with some truckers and mentioned my recent drop-off experienced. A state trooper overheard our conversation, and much to the surprise of all of us, joined our group.
He informed us that pavement edge drop-off related crashes are substantially more likely than other crashes on similar roadways to result in serious injuries. Furthermore, he said drop-off related crashes are more than twice as likely to be fatal, especially when drivers are surprised at night by the sudden drop of a tire.
A driver’s ability to recover from a pavement edge-drop depends upon several key factors, the trooper told us: the height and shape of the drop-off, the speed of the vehicle, the angle of the vehicle’s travel path and width of roadway lane it was traveling on.
The thing to do in a drop-off, he advised, is to slow down and carefully ease back onto the roadway when safe to do so.
That was one occasion when I enjoyed an interaction with a state trooper.