Sunday, August 17, 2014

Insanity On The Highway

Most of us think that drivers are getting crazier by the day. Nothing strengthens that belief like spending all day, five days a week, on the road. Though a few stick out, so many people have cut me off and pulled out in front of me that I actually remember few of them. You would think that putting yourself in the path of a vehicle that (loaded) weighs 15 to 30 times the weight of your own vehicle would cause folks to hesitate. And it sometimes does, just long enough to let you get closer before they pull out in front of you anyway.
Even though their use while driving is now illegal in both states in which I drive, the number of people that I see driving along texting and talking on cell phones is scary. Many talkers seem nearly unaware of what’s going on around them, but the texters literally have to take their eyes off the road to do their “typing,” sometimes for amazingly long periods of times. The one that surprised me most was a brine-truck driver. The guys who haul water and brine to and from the well-sites tend to work long hours and drive fast, so it sort of shocked me the other day to find myself gaining on one. As I passed, I noticed that he was texting away!
Speaking of water truck drivers, they tend to be a dangerous bunch. I’ve seen a few that have gone off the road and got stuck in the mud, probably because they fell asleep at the wheel. They were VERY lucky!

Also, the first week that I drove, I was following the boss in my truck when we came to a stop light. He was sitting in the right lane with two cars ahead of him. I was still in the left lane with two cars and an extremely old, rusted-out water truck in front of me. The cars got stopped okay, but the guy driving the water truck and had waited too long to slow down and had to jam on the brakes. He was almost stopped when the surge from the water in his tank threw him forward. He was quick enough to steer around the stopped cars in front of him, but he blew right through the red light. Luckily for the traffic coming across, they’d made a slow start, so he crossed in front of them. Still, water truck drivers are mostly decent sorts at heart. A couple years ago, some idiot woman with a car full of kids pulled out in front of one on the Northwestern Pike. With no time to stop, he steered toward the berm, went through the guardrail and down the long fill of the raised highway and lost his life in saving theirs. As far as I’m concerned, that woman has his blood on her hands.

Some people pay no attention, though. Thursday of this week, I was headed east on the Northwestern Pike in the left lane and had just gained full speed when an old lady pulled from a road on the right and then STOPPED broadside in my lane, while she waited on traffic in the opposite two lanes. There was a very wide median pass-through that she could have pulled into, but she didn’t! Two cars were behind me and a motorcycle and two cars were beside me. I probably had time to stop, but was afraid the cars behind me would rear-end me if I stood on the brakes. So, as I braked gently, I slowly started inching toward the lane of the cars beside me (the motorcycle had already pulled ahead slightly due to my braking), knowing that they had a wide, paved berm on which to escape my crowding. For the first time ever, I laid on the air horn, but the old lady was apparently deaf as well as blind and never even looked my way. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, she eased forward just enough that I could squeeze by her. I wouldn’t have wanted to be standing against her rear bumper, though!

Since I’m speaking of the Northwestern Pike, I’ll state that I believe the western end to be an unnecessarily dangerous highway. It was designed back when 55 mph was the national law. For a four-lane, it was poorly designed even for back then. Many of the curves have no banking or not enough to be worthwhile. Even back then, they posted signs on a few curves that gave “safe speeds” of under the speed limit. This on a brand-new highway, mind you! Since that time, they’ve raised the speed limit on that road to 65. That’s okay on the straight stretches, but those curves are still laying in wait for you. Technically, you can take them at 65 in a truck, even a top-heavy, loaded dump truck. I know this because I’ve done it while following veteran drivers. HOWEVER, all it would take would be an unexpected pot-hole or bump in the road (both common around here) to cause you to lose control and go flying over the high fill upon which the highway is built many places. An idiot driver, animal or pedestrian could also cause a driver to brake or flinch with the wheel, resulting in the same tragic scenario. Anymore, I let the other drivers go their own speed, while I slow down for the curves in many places. I’d rather the ambulance drivers pick those driver’s body parts from the wrecks in the valley below, than theirs and mine, too. © 2014


Ralph Goff said...

I see a lot of illegal cell phone use here too. Our highways are not always crowded or busy but things can change in a hurry at 110 km per hour. (The legal limit which almost everybody exceeds). I think a lot of the single vehicle accidents that happen are a result of driver distractions like cell phone talk or text.

Gorges Smythe said...

I suspect you're right, Ralph.

Chickenmom said...

They should make a car sensor for mobile phones - if it detects a signal, it should shut off.
You be careful out there, Gorges!

Gorges Smythe said...

They've thought about that, I've read, Cm, but people wouldn't be able to call for help.