ATLANTA - The United Parcel Service (UPS) announced the induction of 1,235 drivers into its elite "Circle of Honor," raising to 5,842 the number of drivers who have steered clear of accidents for 25 years or more.

The number of new inductees is the largest for any single year in the company's history and includes 31 new members from Canada and Germany.

Collectively, the 5,842 drivers have logged more than 5.3 billion miles and more than 161,746 years of safe driving through their careers. That's enough miles to circle the earth 212,000 times.

"UPS and these remarkable drivers are setting a great example for everyone on our roadways by making public safety and safe driving a priority," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "I commend these drivers for achieving the milestone of 25 or more crash-free years of driving - and for helping create safer roads for all of us."



Of the Circle of Honor members, 322 have been accident-free for 35 or more years, with 33 of those having driven more than 40 years without an accident. UPS's top safe driver in 2011 is Ohio Valley District tractor-trailer driver Ron "Big Dog" Sowder, who has achieved 50 years and over 4 million miles of driving without an accident.

"It's an honor to lead this remarkable group of seasoned safe drivers," said Sowder. "I'm proud of what I've accomplished but I'm also proud of all UPS drivers for what they do every day. If I could give only one tip to motorists, it would be to leave a space cushion between you and the car ahead. Tailgating is a major cause of crashes and I see it more every day."

This year, 36 new inductees are females and 16 women have joined the ranks of those with more than 30 years of safe driving. This latter group is led by Orlando tractor-trailer driver Ginny Odom, who is credited with 37 years and more than 3 million miles without an accident. There are a total of 115 women in the Circle of Honor.

UPS's 102,000 drivers worldwide are among the safest on the roads, logging more than 3 billion miles per year with less than one accident per million miles driven.

All UPS drivers are taught safe driving methods beginning on the first day of classroom training through the company's defensive driving platform. The training continues throughout their careers. In 2010, UPS implemented a ban within its organization on text and e-mail messaging while behind the wheel, distractions that are a proven cause of traffic crashes. "Our training and our drivers' attention to details such as avoiding distractions while driving all play a part in their remarkable record," noted John McDevitt, UPS senior vice president of human resources and labor relations. "The annual expansion of the Circle of Honor is proof that our training works."

UPS extends its safe driving expertise to the communities it serves through Road Code, a teen safe driving program available in the United States and now expanding globally. Taught by UPS volunteers, the program is available to teens between the ages of 13 and 18 and more than 5,200 teenagers have participated to date. The program is being extended to the UK, Canada and Germany and further international expansion is planned. The four-session training effort is based on UPS's safe driving methods. Road Code is offered in the U.S. in conjunction with Boys & Girls Clubs of America thanks to $6.1 million in contributions by The UPS Foundation.