EHS OutLoud Blog

Transportation Terrors

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A few weeks ago, I asked EHS Out Loud Blog readers they’d ever felt nervous (or, okay, terrified) while at the mercy of drivers who seemed a little out of control. Here are a few of the responses I received:

Pass the Barf Bag

Tim Walters wrote in to describe a – how should I put this? An unappetizing bus ride:

Our church was on a trip to the Passion Play in Arkansas one summer and we chartered a bus for 52 passengers. The drive was a long one, about 9 hours, and the roads were hilly, curvy and narrow. Our driver had apparently been an Indy 500 driver at one time because he was cutting no slack to the traffic, roads or hills. He kept assuring us that he had made this trip many, many times and knew the roads very well. That didn't make any of us feel safer.

About 6.5 hrs into the trip, someone had gotten carsick from all the movement. That was the beginning of a "domino effect.” We had to stop and get more barf bags at a Walmart on the way ... not a pleasurable experience.

Dozing Driver

Steven C. Hulka, CIH, was traveling with troop 603 of the League City Texas Boy Scouts when he realized the driver might need a little help:

Our Boy Scout troop hired a commercial bus company last year to take us from Houston to Colorado for a summer camp. We drove straight through, taking about 15 hours. This was a big touring bus. We had engine trouble and lost a few hours in Dallas getting it fixed. We pressed on with the original driver. Drivers can only drive for so many hours and we met a new driver in northern Texas.

When the sun went down, everyone started going to sleep. I was trying to sleep, but the bus was making some short swerving motions that made me feel like I was jerking right and then left in my seat. I knew there was no traffic around us and we were on a good but single-lane road. I sat up and watched through the windshield from my seat toward the rear of the bus. Sure enough, the bus would drift to a side and then correct. The driver must have been nodding off with a full bus of kids and adults on board.

I felt out of control but had to do something so I walked up to the driver and asked how he was doing. Just fine, he said, but I knew that he wasn’t, so I stayed up there and talked to him for about an hour and got to know him but really wanted to keep him awake. During the conversation, he admitted casually that the delay in switching drivers caused him not to get the sleep he wanted to have before driving and admitted that he hadn’t slept much the night before. After the trip, I insisted to the Scout leader and bus company hirer that he file a formal complaint with the company. I didn’t want to get the driver in trouble, but this could have ended up way worse had I not interceded.

Shake, Rattle & Roll

Finally, Walters adds an uncomfortable flight to his list of travel terrors:

On a flight from LAX to Hong Kong, we experienced a little "turbulence" flying over a typhoon. The ride wasn't bad until one particular moment, about 9 hrs into the flight, when our 737 AirBus felt like it dropped 1000 feet straight down. There were a couple people going back to their seats when this happened, and they ended up on the floor.

The fear I saw in the flight attendants’ eyes was all I needed to see ... and apparently I wasn't the only one to see that fear. It took some time to get folks to calm back down after that, and the rest of the flight into Hong Kong, about 5 more hours, was very turbulent ... lots of "shake, rattle and roll" going on. To this day, I won't sit in a wing seat – those things were flopping like a bird in flight and I thought they would break off at any moment.

Yikes. I think it’s safe to say you can find me sitting firmly in one place for the rest of the day.

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EHS OutLoud blog provides a candid look at health and safety issues both at work and at home.

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Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is editor-in-chief of EHS Today magazine, a Penton Media Inc. publication. She has been writing about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990. She has been...

Josh Cable

Josh Cable is senior editor of EHS Today, a Penton publication. In his nearly 15 years as a journalist, he has covered a wide range of topics, including banking and finance, occupational safety and...
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