How many hours do you spend driving Southern Nevada’s roads each day? One hour? Two?
And how many traffic accidents — it doesn’t matter whether you or the other guy happened to be at fault — have you been involved in on Southern Nevada’s roads over a period of, oh, 25 years?
If the answer is more than “none,” feel free to marvel at the remarkable accomplishment of Bennie Harris Jr. and Rod Little, who every workday take to Southern Nevada’s wild and woolly streets on behalf of United Parcel Service.
Despite spending thousands of hours navigating Southern Nevada’s mean streets, where drivers are crazed and arriving at your destination is the stuff of dreams, Harris and Little have gone an amazing 25 years without being involved in a workday traffic crash.
When their safe-driving streak began, Taylor Swift was just an infant who cried in suspiciously melodic tones. East and West Germany hadn’t yet kissed and made up, although they were playing serious geopolitical footsie. Moviegoers hadn’t yet had enough time to realize how weird that new Julia Roberts movie, “Pretty Woman,” really was. And — totally serious — both Milli Vanilli and Vanilla Ice still were respected, best-selling recording artists.
In short, Harris and Little have been building their safe-driving records for a long time. And, for that, they have been inducted into the Circle of Honor, an honorary organization for UPS drivers who have recorded a quarter-century or more of accident-free driving.
Harris and Little are members of UPS’ most recent worldwide Circle of Honor class of 1,445 newly inducted drivers. In joining the elite club — which has 7,878 active drivers worldwide — Harris and Little join Nevada’s 35 active Circle of Honor drivers who, according to UPS, account for a collective 1,027 years of accident-free driving.
Harris is in his 27th year of driving for UPS. He began as a part-time UPS employee at age 19 while attending community college. Two years later, he became a full-time driver.
He now works from UPS’ Arby Avenue station.
Little has driven for UPS for 28 years. He works from UPS’ Martin Luther King Boulevard station. Both he and Harris drive daily package delivery routes.
What’s it like to log 25 years of unscathed daily driving? Both Harris and Little say that although they feel gratified by the recognition they’ve received and are proud of the work they do, the record just sort of crept up on them.
“I don’t think about it or keep track of it,” Little says. “I just try to be safe every day.”
“I’m proud that I’ve made it this far. Most people don’t make it that far,” he adds. “In this town, it’s very hard. I’m sure in most towns it’s pretty hard, but this one, with all of the different people and all of the different driving styles, it’s not an easy task.”
Little and Harris agree that defensive driving — driving with an eye on what other drivers are doing or might do — is the foundation upon which safe driving is built. The idea is to “pay attention to everything around you,” Harris explains.
During their years on the road, the drivers have seen every sort of bad driving and every sort of bad driver there is.
“I used to deliver to Pahrump for 10 years, going back and forth between Vegas and Pahrump every day,” Harris says. “I’ve seen a lot of things, going from Vegas.”
The most common inhabitants of their own rogues’ gallery of bad drivers include “the driver who has his turn signal on to make a right turn but actually doesn’t turn right,” Little says, calling that one of many little things “that make a difference in staying safe.”
Also on the list: Drivers who follow too closely and drivers who cross solid white lines that they’re not supposed to cross, particularly in the high-speed, multilaned setting of a freeway.
Little says a one-two punch of bad road habits comes from drivers who don’t leave enough space between themselves and other vehicles — “because most people like to drive on your bumper” — and don’t slow down to let others into a freeway’s travel lane.
“I think most UPS drivers, when we drive down the freeway, we’re not going to be on somebody’s bumper and we’re going to let someone in,” Little says.
Although they’ve seen it all, Little and Harris admit that even they can be surprised by what other drivers do.
Sometimes, when passing a, let’s call it a roadside situation, Harris says, “I scratch my head and say, ‘How did that happen?’”
The trick, he adds, is to drive not only for yourself, but to also “drive for everybody else.”
Traffic challenges notwithstanding, Harris and Little say they enjoy their jobs.
“I love driving, obviously, but the customers make it worthwhile,” Harris says.
“I like what I do a lot,” he says. “I get to meet different people almost every day.”
Given how most of us hate driving in rush-hour traffic — or, really, any sort of traffic — what do people say when they learn that Little and Harris spend nearly their entire workday on the road as part of their jobs?
“They are excited,” Harris says. “And I think that’s good, because they know when they see a UPS driver it’s going to be safe for them out on the road.”
Contract reporter John Przybys at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0280.