Robert Gomez Jr. has been driving UPS' signature big, brown trucks around Southern Arizona since the mid-1980s.
He also has the distinction of being crash-free for 25 consecutive years behind the wheel, which was recently recognized with his induction into the company’s Circle of Honor. Gomez was one of several recent Tucson-area drivers to be so recognized in recent months.
A UPS representative estimated Gomez has put in about 670,000 miles during his career — and delivered more than 1 million packages.
With more than 100 miles driven daily on area roads, the Santa Rita High School graduate struck the Road Runner as someone with unique perspectives on safety and the state of our streets, themes familiar to regular column readers.
So, how did he do it?
Gomez chalked it up to five basic rules he tries his best to follow. First, steer high, which means keep an eye out ahead, not just immediately in front of your vehicle. That helps you “find a safe path ahead of you,” Gomez said.
Second, maintain a sense of the big picture around your vehicle, and a related third tip is to keep your eyes moving, which in a hulking vehicle like Gomez’s means checking mirrors often.
“The mirrors are my eyes,” he said. “If you’re not watching your mirrors, you don’t know what’s beside you, behind you . … That keeps us alive in intersections.”
He also said it’s important to leave yourself an out from any driving situation, and to also make sure all other road users see you.
He credits his practiced alertness with helping him notice several young children wandering unaccompanied and worryingly close to major thoroughfares. On three occasions, he has helped them get back to the day-care centers and babysitters whose not-so-watchful eyes they had escaped, he said.
Given his breadth of experience with local streets, the Road Runner couldn’t help but ask which, in his opinion, were the worst.
As you can probably imagine, many column readers write in asking about what they swear is the absolute worst street in the county, which often also happens to run right in front of their homes or nearby.
Gomez seemed like someone able to offer a more objective take, and he didn’t hesitate: East Broadway between Harrison Road and Camino Seco.
“That little strip there is rough,” he said, adding that he’s also not too fond of East Valencia Road between South Kolb and Wilmot roads.
Fortunately for Gomez and others, some good news: Construction on that stretch of Broadway is scheduled to start this spring or summer, according to the project’s website.