By Amy O. Williams
Larry Mobley accomplished something this year that few American drivers will ever do -- he made it through 25 years without a single traffic accident.
The accomplishment is significant considering there were nearly 210,000 traffic accidents in Tennessee in 2005, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation. And 12,417 of those were in Hamilton County.
It is especially significant considering Mr. Mobley drives a United Parcel Service truck for a living, logging 12 hours a day behind the wheel.
"I really didn't think a whole lot about (the 25 years) until about a year ago," said Mr. Mobley, whose route services the Sewanee, Tenn., area. "I always considered safety to be something special to me because this is a job that requires a lot of attention."
Being alert and aware of other drivers is something that is extremely important, he said.
"Plus, I am driving around all day with a big sign (on my truck)," he said.
In October UPS recognized Mr. Mobley for reaching that landmark by inducting him into the parcel carrier's Circle of Honor program, which recognizes drivers who attain 25 years or more of wreck-free driving.
Even within UPS itself, having 25 years with no accidents is quite an accomplishment, said Wayne Bratcher, manager of the company's Chattanooga South center where Mr. Mobley works.
"There are not that many drivers that can pass that 25-year mark," Mr. Bratcher said. "It is very significant -- it shows his dedication to safe driving."
Of the 49 UPS drivers that work out of the Chattanooga South center, there is just one other that has earned the distinction.
Mr. Mobley, 54, grew up in Chattanooga and attended high school in Brainerd. He went to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to study psychology, but three years into his degree program, Mr. Mobley started wondering what kind of job he'd get after graduation.
He considered entering the aviation industry and even attended airline school in the Midwest. Eventually though, he returned to Chattanooga, got married and had three children.
During that time he worked briefly for Mayfield Dairy and then Hormel Meats in various positions such as sales and deliveries. In 1980, a friend encouraged him to come work for UPS. With the exception of a few months that first year, Mr. Mobley has worked for UPS ever since.
The company offers periodic training and teaches drivers to maintain safety practices. As someone who is on the road nearly 60 hours a week, Mr. Mobley said he is rarely surprised anymore by the irresponsible things people do while they are driving. Bad behavior by other drivers makes him even more alert, he said.
"There are people out here driving around with their cell phone stuck to their head, and they are not paying attention to what they are doing," Mr. Mobley said. "Or they are reading a book, combing their hair or in a position where they have their legs cocked up on the side of the dash -- you see it all."
He practices the driving tips taught by UPS and has passed them along to his now-grown children when they learned to drive. Those keys include focusing on steering and being aware of surroundings while driving. Most drivers he encounters, he said, are safe and conscientious.
E-mail Amy O. Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Name: Larry Mobley
* Age: 54
* Position: UPS driver since 1981
* Professional: Recently passed 25 years driving accident-free.
* Quote: "I think you just have to be lucky. It takes some skill, but it takes some luck, too."