So here we have another prime example of what happens when government agencies do too much in some aspects and not enough in others. This latest incident happened close to home and is a very real example of what is wrong on our highways, a 17-year-old boy driving himself and his younger siblings to school pulled out in front of a semi on Hwy 23 in Milaca, MN. None of the kids in the minivan were wearing seat belts and the end result was the death of his 13-year-old sister and moderate to sever injuries to the surviving three siblings. You can read all of the details at the following link:
There really is no need to express how terrible of an accident that this is when you have the loss of a young life however it has been my experience that if these types of incidents are sugar-coated then the true impact of the event falls on deaf ears. Yes this boy will have to live with this event for the rest of his life and his parents and many others will spend eternity asking questions and thinking “what if”. There is also a 51-year-old truck driver who now has to live with the fact that he was involved in an accident that took the life of a young girl and as we all know the vast majority of professional drivers are very family driven.
Many other professional drivers along with myself have asked that a requirement be set forth into the requirements for obtaining a driver’s license of any class to include a portion of education addressing how to safely share the road around large commercial and not for hire vehicles. The request in itself is small by comparison to many of the extensive programs launched by the government to “make the highways safer”. The FMCSA has taken it upon itself to impose regulations costing billions of dollars to tell drivers when they can and cannot drive, if they are physically fit to drive, if they are getting “proper sleep”, and numerous other issues all targeted at CDL holders. Meanwhile between 70%-75% of all accidents involving a CMV and a passenger vehicle are caused by the driver of the passenger vehicle and little to no regulations are aimed at regulations or education targeted at the drivers of those passenger vehicles.
When is the time going to come when a lawmaker has the guts to step forward and go against the grain of the political machine and acknowledge a real problem that we have on our highways? In many cases teenagers are given the option to take drivers education through their high school and in a large percentage of those programs the instructors are nothing more than regular classroom teachers showing kids the basics just so they can supplement their teacher salary. I recently did an inquiry of random driving schools across the country, I called these schools and asked if any part of their course curriculum addressed driving around large vehicles or commercial vehicles. Of the 100 inquiries I made only 17 said that they had a portion of their program dedicated to it and of those 17 only 8 dedicated more than approximately 30 minutes of time to the subject. Here in Minnesota the requirement for classroom training is 30 hours, so how can only 30 minutes of it being dedicated to this issue be considered acceptable, especially when it is done on a voluntary basis and many don’t include it at all.
The introduction of this type of program into the already required curriculum would be a minimal financial investment in comparison with the multimillion dollar programs already put into place and targeted at professional drivers, and before anyone fires back with the excuse “well you are supposed to be professionals”, I want you to think about something. If we are supposed to be professionals does that also require us to be responsible to be dodging the mistakes of less qualified individuals on the roadway? Should we be forced to bear the burden of increased regulations to keep a population safer because they don’t want to be held accountable for their actions? Yes we all agree that these incidents are tragic when they happen however simply looking at them and saying it was just an accident isn’t enough. When up to 75% of accidents are caused by one group of individuals it should be a huge red flag yet for some reason it is twisted around and the focus shifted to the people who are the minority of the problem.
If you are a parent and you are reading this, I’m not attempting to attack your parenting choices or skills and I’m not laying blame on your kids. There are many CDL holders out here on the roads who just like me want to see your children and the children of other families get home safe every single day. Asking that your kids be properly educated in this capacity is nothing more that a preventative step to assuring their safety. We all know that kids are going to make mistakes but if we can take steps to reduce those mistakes its time well spent. If you have a teen about to become a driver then please, when you inquire about programs for their driving education, ask them how much of the course study if any is devoted to this subject. If they don’t then keep calling around to find one that does. if you can’t find one then contact me and I will help you find one.
Please keep them safe and take the steps to be proactive instead of having to react to the loss of a young life.