Salespeople are kindly 'kings' of the road

Pharmaceutical Representative

Are salespeople nicer, better drivers than the rest?

If nightly newscasters are to believed, today's highways are as dangerous as those leading to the Thunderdome in a Mad Max movie.

However, a survey conducted by the Hampton Inn paints a much friendlier picture of America's most frequent drivers: salespeople.

The hotelier surveyed 500 frequent business travelers who primarily drive, rather than fly, to determine how and why they travel, as well as their opinions about life on the road. Approximately 90% reported that they were employed in sales positions.

More than 85% of those surveyed described themselves as either friendly or extra-cautious drivers. Only 14% admitted to being impatient or vengeful when they were behind the wheel.

Although the survey respondents said they rarely received speeding tickets, more than 80% said they thought it was acceptable to drive five to 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. A mere 5% said they felt it was all right to drive 15 to 20 miles per hour over the posted limit.

Truth or fiction?

Could it be that salespeople are just nicer, better drivers than everybody else? Pharmaceutical Representative asked several members of its reader advisory panel if the Hampton Inn's survey results sounded too good to be true.

George Wojdacki of Clinton Township, MI, believes pharmaceutical reps are safer drivers.

"Because sales reps spend more time on the road, they are extremely aware of the environment they are driving in, and they become more defensive drivers," said Wojdacki, a district manager and former sales representative who celebrated 22 years with Glaxo Wellcome in July. "They allow 'road ragers' to do what they do. They realize that road rage is a short-term situation."

Wojdacki, who averages approximately 30,000 miles per year, also pointed out that many companies that employ a sales force and own a fleet of cars have incentive programs that encourage sales reps to drive safely, avoid accidents and keep moving violations to a minimum. "I think reps want that golden ring as a prize for safe driving," he said.

Feeling guilty about baring your teeth at that tailgater last week? Don't be too hard on yourself, and don't saint all salespeople just yet. That 86% surveyed by the Hampton Inn might just be lying through their teeth.

Betty Parker, a medical consultant in endocrinology for Serono, speculated that at least a few of the 86% who described themselves as extra-cautious or friendly were probably bluffing a little bit.

"I'm a pretty nice person, but when I get on the road, I'm probably not as cautious or as friendly as I should be," she admitted with an embarrassed laugh.

Parker averages about 1,000 miles per week in her territory of South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and northern Florida. She said she has had enough bad experiences with other drivers that she could "write a book about it."

Despite her complaints about discourteous truckers who tailgate her and aggressive drivers who won't let her merge when a lane shuts down, however, the affable sales representative can't quite work up a genuine road rage.

"Even if you do get angry, you have to curb that anger," Parker reasoned. "Sometimes you just have to let that stuff happen. Patience will save a lot of lives." PR