“So You Think You Can Drive,” New Era, Apr. 1971, 10
If you now drive, or ever expect to, then this is for you. The following driving tips have been road tested around the world by missionaries who drive the three thousand or more vehicles in the Church mission fleet and who accumulate over 60 million miles annually.
These driving tips work. They work so well, in fact, that after three years of applying them, the insurance firm that covers the mission automobile fleet presented to the Church a refund of about 23 percent of the premiums paid during that period.
Whereas previously 30 percent of the missionary cars had been involved in reportable accidents yearly, today the percentage is down to 16 and is still declining.
An executive of the insurance firm said, “In the approximately fifteen hundred accidents we investigated during this three-year period, not one of the drivers was in what we call a ‘moral hazard involvement.’” The record was truly remarkable, he said, especially since young drivers in the eighteen-to-twenty-five age group are ordinarily in the high risk category and usually pay the highest premiums listed.
Anyone who drives could apply these tips and greatly increase his chances for accident-free driving.
However, there’s another reason why many readers will be interested in applying these rules. If there is a possibility that there might be a mission in your future, it will be well to remember that the way you drive today will determine whether or not you will be allowed to drive while on your mission. This is because driving a car in the missions is a privilege granted only to those who have established a good driving record before entering the mission field. A review of your personal driving history is an official part of the interviews given you prior to your receiving a mission call.
You will be classified according to the following categories:
Class A. Drivers who have never received any citations for traffic violations. If this describes you, you will be cleared for driving.
Class B. Drivers who have received citations for traffic violations but have never had their licenses revoked. If this is your case, your mission president must be satisfied with your ability to discipline yourself and to drive safely before he permits you to drive.
Class C. Drivers who have had their licenses revoked. If you are in this category, you are not to be given driving privileges. If you need transportation, it is recommended that you be assigned companions who have full driving rights. Sometimes, if a Class C driver proves himself mature and dependable after a year in the mission field, the mission president may recommend to the Missionary Committee of the Church that he be granted driving privileges. The decision would be at the discretion of the committee and administrators of the Church missionary fleet.
Class NL. A person who has not previously obtained a license to drive and therefore has little or no driving experience. If this is you, it is suggested that you not be permitted to learn to drive or obtain your license while in the mission field because where this was permitted in the past, it has not proven satisfactory.
Here, then, are the road-tested missionary rules for driving. They were discovered and tested by the Church fleet administrator, Theo Mebius, who analyzed and tabulated driving and accident reports sent in by the missions.
“We have been able to pinpoint the types of accidents that occur most commonly and make specific suggestions designed to prevent them from happening again,” he said.
1. Use the “pilot and co-pilot system.” That is, whenever possible, at least one person besides the driver should remain alert and on watch. In the old stagecoach days this was called “riding shotgun.” The assistant should not read, snooze, or distract, but should be ready to help the driver in any way, even getting out of the car to aid in backing out of tight parking spots. These two should watch each other carefully for signs of fatigue. One should never drive on when he is getting drowsy.
2. Wear seatbelts. In at least one mission it has become customary to hang the buckle of the seatbelt over the steering wheel after parking the car as a reminder to buckle up upon returning. So far no one has managed to drive off with the buckle still on the wheel.
3. Try to avoid rush-hour traffic. During these times, trips that normally take fifteen minutes may take forty-five minutes. You lose valuable time and run unnecessary risks. Furthermore, you should learn which are the most hazardous times to be on the road, so you can be doubly cautious. About 40 percent of highway fatalities occur on weekends—a third of these between 4:00 P.M. and 8:00 P.M. Saturday is the most dangerous day, Sunday is next, and Friday manages to beat any of the other four days by a fair margin.
4. Check basic equipment daily—tires, brakes, lights, and so forth. The professional truck drivers do it. A minor problem discovered today could avert a major tragedy tomorrow.
5. Plan ahead and know where you are going before you start the car. Don’t refer to maps while driving. This is particularly important in freeway driving. Never enter a freeway unless you know beforehand where to get off. And never, under any circumstances, try to back up on a freeway to make an exit.
6. Try to maintain a position relative to other traffic that enables you to see the road for a good distance ahead. Tailgating, or driving too close to the car ahead of you, especially behind large trucks, obscures your long-range view. When traffic ahead stops abruptly, you may not have time to hit the brakes before hitting the car ahead. Hitting the car ahead is the second most common type of accident and is usually caused by following too close. It’s still a good rule of thumb to keep one car length behind the next vehicle for every ten miles of speed. Allow even more room on wet or icy surfaces.
7. Keep cars free of inside litter. Place heavy objects—which could become missiles in case of a quick stop—in the trunk. In California, two missionaries were slowing down for an intersection when an empty pop bottle rolled from beneath the driver’s seat and up under the brake pedal. With the brakes thus jammed, they smashed into a semitrailer and the car was totaled out. Fortunately no injury more serious than a broken arm resulted, but all for an empty pop bottle. In another case a quick stop brought some heavy books flying from the back window area, whacking the driver on the neck. He was severely cut and had to have stitches. Imagine what a typewriter or an adding machine might have done!
8. Keep your car locked when not in use. Not only does this discourage theft, but it can also prevent freak accidents. Recently two missionaries were in a home presenting a discussion when they noticed through the front window of the house that their car was rolling down the driveway into the street. A young boy of the household, attempting to play a trick on the elders, had backed the car out into heavy traffic. It was demolished and the boy ended up in the hospital. Whose fault? The missionaries’—for leaving the car unlocked and the keys in the ignition.
9. Drive with the gas tank more than half full. A stalled car is a deadly hazard, both to its occupants and to the innocent people who may unavoidably collide with it.
10. Keep your eyes on the road. “Oh, brother,” you’re probably saying. “How basic can you get?” But it’s surprising how many accidents can happen during that split second when the driver’s head is turned to take in some passing scenery.
Add to the above reminders some good old horse sense and you may save yourself and your loved ones from the agony and inconvenience of a traffic mishap. Remember, far more casualties result from automobile accidents than from the war in Southeast Asia, and motorists, not motors, are the cause of 90 percent of highway accidents.
In many homes it is a daily matter to pray for safety while traveling. But remember that when we pray for protection, we must be sure we drive in a manner to merit it. As a help to remember this, here’s a slogan: LDS can also stand for Let’s Drive Safely.