Living with Safety Gadgets
The best safety device is and always will be a professional driver. A professional driver should be well trained, well rested, and always put safety first. The driver will always be at the center of safety. No device, no matter how advanced can replace the driver. That does not mean that safety devices can't improve the safety of the driver and the vehicle.
I am old enough to remember cars without safety belts. People argued against them. They said “Those things don't make me safer, I need freedom of movement”. My favorite one is “What if I drive off the bridge and can't get the safety belt off when I am underwater.” Really? It is widely accepted that safety belts save lives. Child safety seats have saved the lives of countless infants and children. The safest place is not in its mother's arms. The safety advancements in cars are documented in highway fatality statistics.
As trucks become more advanced they are being equipped with more and more safety devices. We have anti-lock braking systems. Electronic stability control works. It did for me. It was about 35 degrees and raining. I was deadheading from De Kalb, IL to Milwaukee. The outside temperature gauge in my truck was reading 35. We have come a long way since looking for temperatures at the outside of a bank. Being old school I was watching the back of my mirror. Us old schoolers watch for any ice build up on the backs of our mirrors. There was none. In trucking it is better to go too slow than too fast. So, I was being cautious. Then my drives broke traction on a slight curve. I was not going fast enough to be in serious danger of jack knifing. I did think that it was going to take 2 or 3 slight corrections. 1-it took 1 slight correction and it was straight as an arrow and I became a believer.
My last truck had a lane avoidance system. The first time I drove it that thing went off. If I hit the right lane marker that irritating noise would come out my right speaker. If I hit the left lane marker. The noise came out of my left speaker. If I reached for something inside the cab, I got the noise. I made the adjustments and after a little while I stopped getting buzzed by that noise.
Then, the ultimate challenge, was collision mitigation. Man, within a week I wanted that thing taken off of my truck. I decide to give it at least 10,000 miles to see if we could work together. It gradually became less irritating. Some of my habits were mitigated. Cruise control was an addiction of mine. I had a tendency of getting too close to the vehicle in front of me before changing lanes. This system has a way of breaking (braking) that habit. Basically, it wants to know that you see what it does. A slight tap on the brake on my part, reduces the chances of more than a tap on its part. This system that is supposed to protect when we stop paying close attention has forced me to pay REAL close attention. In the end all of these “gadgets” can make even the best professional driver safer.