Dover letter carriers honored for million-mile feat

John Comeaux, left, of Marydel, and Jack Lawrence, of Camden, were honored at the Dover Post Office on Thursday for driving 1 million miles without an accident. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

John Comeaux, left, of Marydel, and Jack Lawrence, of Camden, were honored at the Dover Post Office on Thursday for driving 1 million miles without an accident. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

DOVER — The distance of 1 million miles is so large, it’s hard to quantify.

Traveling that far while delivering mail and packages in a mail truck without being involved in an accident over the span of around 30 years, well, that is a rare combination of luck and skill.

At least that’s what Marydel’s John Comeaux and Camden’s Jack Lawrence, who both work at the Dover Post Office, said after they were recognized in front of their peers Thursday morning for achieving that feat of endurance and safety.

Sharon Rogers, the South Jersey/Delaware District Manager for the United States Postal Service, downplayed the role of luck in their achievement.

“Driving a million miles without having an accident is not luck,” said Ms. Rogers, who presented plaques to both drivers’ honoring their milestones. “It’s being safe, having their seat belts on and not hitting anything.

“We have so many carriers hit mailboxes, so it’s not luck. Being safe is not luck. It’s amazing. Safe driving is no accident.”

Ms. Rogers noted there have been 16 letter carriers who have died in vehicle crashes across the country already this year and accidents involving mail trucks are not rare due to the nature of the job, which includes stopping on the side of narrow roads and driving in all types of weather conditions.

That’s why Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Comeaux both shook their heads when they tried to think back to what helped them drive 1 million miles in a mail truck without an accident.

“I’ve had a lot of close calls,” said Mr. Lawrence, who delivered mail for 27 years but now works in vehicle maintenance for the post office. “You’ve just always got to be aware of your surroundings and try to have no distractions. It’s actually harder nowadays because there’s cellphones to deal with and everything else.”

Mr. Comeaux has been delivering mail for 35 years. That’s a lot of trips around the neighborhood.

“The most important thing to me is to watch out for the other guy and make sure you follow the safety rules — hands on the wheel, eyes on the road,” he said. “You just have to always check your mirrors and things like that and be aware of your surroundings.

“They sent me to defensive driving school when I was in Camden and they taught us a few things to keep in mind and it’s helped. You have to always expect the unexpected and what you think somebody is going to do, they’re going to do something different.”

To put Mr. Comeaux and Mr. Lawrence’s accomplishment into perspective and how great a distance 1 million miles is, consider that NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson, who has driven to a record 10 victories at Dover International Speedway, has only logged 11,374 miles throughout his career so far at the Monster Mile, not all of which were crash free.

According to the National Safety Council, more than 9,400 Postal Service employees have driven more than 1 million, accident-free miles. No other business comes close.

The nation’s 31,000-plus post offices are linked by nearly 214,000 vehicles — the nation’s largest civilian fleet. More than 300,000 letter carriers and truck drivers log more than 1.2 billion miles annually when delivering to the 153 million addresses in the United States.

Achieving the safety milestone is something that Mr. Comeaux doesn’t take lightly. He admits a lot of factors were involved in it.

“A lot of times when you’re sitting in that truck and you’re putting mail in a box and somebody goes by really close to your truck at about 70 mph because they drifted off, you have to believe there’s a little bit of luck involved, too,” he said, “because the next day there could be somebody else driving and they sideswipe you.”

Mr. Lawrence doesn’t seem to miss his time on the road. He’s happy maintaining the fleet these days.

“When I was carrying I guess [the toughest thing] was being out there in the bad weather and watching out for people and dogs … just all the distractions you have to deal with and still keep your mind on your job,” he said.

Luckily for Mr. Comeaux and Mr. Lawrence, they were able to do that successfully over a long period of time — and distance.

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