HOW RISING OIL PRICES PROMOTE HIGHWAY SAFETY

There is an advantage to high oil prices that goes beyond the lift they give profits of oil and gas producers.

There is an advantage to high oil prices that goes beyond the lift they give profits of oil and gas producers.

For a few days, at least, they made a few highways safer than they were before.

In the Feb. 17 issue of Wall Street Journal, Daniel Machalaba reported that independent truck drivers, in protest against increases in the price of diesel fuel, refused to haul cargo.

For a few wonderful days in a few areas of America, therefore, truckers parked their huge rigs and griped about refiners' probably brief interlude of good fortune.

And it those areas, for those few days, it was safer than usual to drive a normally sized vehicle on expressways. For car drivers concerned about life, limb, and loved ones, that should have taken some of the sting out of elevated gasoline prices.

Of course, truckers weren't the only people fussing about oil prices last week. They were just extra whiny about it.

Truckers whine about everything.

Lately, for example, semis have caused a lot of wrecks around Houston. Some of the accidents killed people. All of them aggravated traffic problems.

And how did the trucking industry respond? By whining about how nontruckers drive.

One trucking outfit even coaxed police officers to ride around town in its towering cabs to witness first-hand the horrors of amateur driving.

"See, officer? That swerving Toyota made me cut my turn too short and turn the the trailer onto its side in the borrow ditch."

"See, officer? It was that woman putting on eye makeup while she was driving that made me jack-knife and block traffic for two hours."

"See officer? It was that pickup that didn't signal for a lane change that made me roll off the bridge and crush the Volkswagen whose driver never saw it coming."

Rubbish. Whiny rubbish.

Trucks represent disproportionate destructive potential. A maximum-size truck at the speed limit runs into something with force thirty times that of the average-sized car traveling at the same rate. And anybody who spends appreciable time on US expressways knows how seriously semi drivers take speed limits.

A trucker should have to exercise more caution than drivers around him-much more. A trucker should drive slower and stay to the extent possible in the curb lane.

Progress toward this ideal might begin with fines proportional to weight ratios. That means a traffic infraction with a fully loaded heavy rig might be thirty times more costly than the same infraction with an average-size car.

Unfair? Tough. You mess up with a death machine, you pay.

Truckers have for too long acted as though the rest of the traveling world should be getting out of their way. They have things backwards.

And now some of them want governments to solve fuel-cost problems for them. Big rigs showed up at the state capital in Trenton, NJ, for example, to push for official action on diesel prices.

So what happened to the money they saved during the many months when diesel prices were extraordinarly low?

Government officials will probably understand that the truckers are just whining. It's what truckers tend to do.

And it's worth enduring if it keeps the reckless ones off the road.

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