It’s not unusual for Craig Vorwaller to see motorists texting, talking on cell phones or even reading books during his run from Salt Lake City to Reno.
The veteran trucker can only shake his head — and stay out of the way.
Distracted driving, the impacts
Crashes » A distraction of any type contributed to 10 percent of all crash fatalities (more than 3,300) and 17 percent of crash injuries (about 387,000) in 2011. Cellphone use while driving was attributed to about 12 percent of the fatalities and about 5 percent of the injuries.
Phone influence » Researchers estimate about 5 percent of all drivers on the roads at any given daylight moment – or about 660,000 vehicles – were talking on a handheld cellphone while driving in 2011.
Ban » The National Safety Council in 2009 began pushing for a nationwide ban on all cellphone use while driving after more than 50 peer-reviewed research reports called for it. Many states are enforcing some form of restriction.
Source: National Safety Council
Craig Vorwaller’s tips for the road
Guard against drowsiness by pulling over for a quick break at the first sign of fatigue
On the freeway, pick a lane and stay in it
“Leave some space between you and the other guy”
Be patient and ignore discourtesies
Courtesy is usually repaid with courtesy
Unlike drunks who drive slowly, distracted motorists have a tendency to drift into other lanes while they’re speeding down the highway.
"I appreciate courteous drivers," said Vorwaller, who has racked up more than 3.1 million miles over his 34-year driving career. "The others, you just wonder how they made it this far."
Vorwaller, 56, has been named Driver of the Year by Ryder System Inc., a leader in transportation and supply chain management services. He drives a Ryder truck for Swire CocaCola out of Salt Lake City.
The award honors those who have demonstrated exemplary safety performance, customer service and citizenship throughout their careers.
Vorwaller, of West Valley City, said he is conscious of the entire roadway when he’s behind the wheel, trying "to see what’s coming up, what’s going to happen before you get there."
"You leave some space between you and the other guy," he added. "You try to do their thinking for them, you try to know what they’re going to do before they do it. It can be difficult, but it comes with experience."
The first rule of defensive driving is to be patient, he added, and to ignore discourtesies. Vorwaller can’t count all the times that motorists have raced ahead of him and nearly cut him off — just to rush to a freeway off-ramp where they must slow down while the traffic they sped around continues down the road.
Vorwaller says he must guard against fatigue. Before he gets tired "to the point of being stupid," he knows to pull off for a 20-minute rest or catnap so he can refresh himself, and stay alert.
He grew up in Magna, but instead of working in the nearby mine or an office, he opted for the open roadways.
Through the years, the most feared drivers have been those who are young and inexperienced, he said. They have a tendency to speed and to concentrate on just about everything but the road. Vorwaller said young drivers gave him pause when it came time to teach daughter Amanda, now 27, how to drive.
"It’s not just boys, it’s girls, too," he said. "They have a tendency to speed, to text, to not watch what they’re doing. They change lanes too often and they’re not looking where they’re going."
He insisted that his daughter learn to drive a manual transmission, with its driver-operated clutch and movable gear stick. He thinks manuals gives drivers a better feel for the power of the engine and that they won’t be caught off guard if the situation demands such knowledge.
Wife Janet, a Fillmore native, learned to drive farm equipment at an early age and is a veteran driver, he said.
After all these years on the road, Vorwaller says he’s learned to stay out of motorists’ blind spots and that when he’s courteous to another motorist, "people appreciate it." And they’re usually polite in return.
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