Some people eat or shave while doing it.
Others fiddle with their radio and GPS, send or read a text, or make or take a phone call.
Grant Skillern has seen people do all of those things while they were behind the wheel and on the road.
As an employee of UPS, he avoids any such behavior that can prevent him from driving safely on the job. Skillern does that not only to keep his good-paying union job that he enjoys, but also because he knows that with preoccupied motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists filling the road, an accident can be just a moment’s distraction away.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “Expect the unexpected.”
Skillern is so adept at watching for the unexpected that he was recently named to UPS’ Circle of Honor, for 25 years of accident-free driving. He was one of 10 UPS drivers in Washington, out of more than 2,100 in the state, so honored.
Washington now has 109 active Circle of Honor drivers, with a combined 3,120 years of accident-free driving. A Spokane driver tops the list with 38 years.
Globally, nearly 7,900 active drivers, out of 102,000 companywide, are members of the Circle of Honor.
Skillern, 51, has been a full-time UPS employee for 28 years. A California native, he transferred to Bellingham nine years ago from Palm Springs.
“My wife and I were tired of the heat,” he explained.
He initially drove rural Whatcom County routes – he really didn’t care for putting snow chains on his company van – but he now delivers packages in downtown Bellingham.
He drives a 28-foot van, called a “package car,” logging about 40 miles a day. During his tenure with UPS, it’s a safe guesstimate that he has driven more than a quarter-million miles.
Skillern said safety is discussed at every morning meeting at work, and safety reminders are routinely texted to drivers.
But he won’t check the text while driving. His hand-held device that handles messages and lists delivery information sits in a holster on the dashboard while he’s driving. He also carries a cellphone and some water to drink, but he doesn’t use the phone or take a sip unless he has pulled over.
Such precautions can’t stop all accidents, of course. Last autumn, Skillern was southbound on North State Street where the traffic lanes angle a bit as they approach York Street. Unfortunately, the driver to Skillern’s left didn’t follow the angle and clipped the left rear side of his van, he said. Company officials decided the accident was unavoidable and not Skillern’s fault.
Away from the job, Skillern drives a Chevrolet Silverado pickup, and his wife drives a Chevy Tahoe SUV. Both vehicles are stout enough to provide extra protection from other drivers, distracted or otherwise.
“I’ll sacrifice the gas mileage for having a bigger car,” Skillern said.