Lessons Learned —on a scary ride home


It was too dark last Thursday night to see into the other car. I don’t know if the driver was a man or woman, a drunk driver or a sociopath. I think it was a man because of the extremely aggressive behavior. (I know women can be just as aggressive, but for some reason I just associate men with aggression, unfair as that assumption might be.)

Last Thursday was the first time ever that I felt the need to reach for my cell to call 911 for help, yet I was too afraid to let go of the steering wheel or to look away from the road and lose control of my car, so I just prayed.

The evening had been fun, a dinner with friends. We are a fairly congenial group that likes to linger after a meal, but we were all tired; we decided to call it an early night. Although it was still early enough to do a little Christmas shopping, I decided to go straight home. The road was not as busy as I had expected; either people were still packing the mall or had stayed home because of the distressing economic news.

truck-and-car

I noticed the truck as soon as I entered New Circle Road, a usually busy, three-lane road. From a distance of about three hundred yards, I also noticed a car tailgating the truck and remember thinking how odd that was. With the road unusually empty, there had been ample opportunity to pass the truck, had he wanted.

My car’s speedometer told me I was comfortably within the legal speed limit yet, I was overtaking them rapidly; I moved immediately into the middle lane, knowing that I would pass both vehicles. As I approached both truck and passenger car, I noted they were traveling at about thirty-five miles per hour and I just assumed they were traveling together.

At about thirty feet from the vehicles, without warning the driver of the passenger car floored the gas pedal; his engine roared with the sudden acceleration and the car swerved into the middle lane, cutting me off. Luckily I have fast reflexes and managed to avoid a collision.

My initial response was a question: Why in Heaven’s name did he do that? This had to be a drunk driver; I slowed down to put more distance between the two of us. The other driver also slowed down. I heard a little voice in my head warning me. What is going on here?

As a test, I signaled that I was going to move into the left hand lane. Immediately, the other driver once again gunned his engine and anticipated my move. When he realized that I was still in the middle lane, he swerved back into my lane, preventing me from moving forward.

As we approached the next exit, the truck to my right got onto the exit ramp and in seconds this unpredictable driver and I were alone on this stretch of road. I started feeling anxious. There were still two exits to go before my exit. I did not want to get off the highway on the exit before mine, knowing that area was deserted at night. At least on this main road there was a chance that other traffic or a patrol car might come by.

Once again I tested the other driver by trying to  move into another lane, each time I attempted the move he blocked me. I slowed down even move, thinking that a collision was about inevitable and I would have a better chance at a lower speed. Now, the other driver was pretending to try to hit my car or maybe, he was not pretending. That’s when I thought of reaching for my cell phone.

As I approached my exit I signaled a left turn and immediately turned right onto the exit ramp. Once there  I floored the gas pedal; a quick check of the rear view mirror assured me I was not being followed. Shaken, I went home.

In the safety of my living room, I thought about this disturbing incident. In hindsight I came to several conclusions and resolutions:

1.  I should have called the police immediately or as soon as I had realized what was happening. By doing nothing I had allowed that maniac to go find some one else to harass. Maybe, the next target would not be as lucky as I.

2. I will program my cell phone to dial the police with just one keystroke.

3. I will keep the phone in an easily accessible location instead of deep in my purse.

4. I should have memorized the other car’s license plate number. It was in plain view all the time, yet I was too flustered to do such a simple task. Heck, I could have  taken a photograph of the rear end of the other car with my phone; we were uncomfortably close and my headlights illuminated its license plate, yet I did not even think of it.

Lastly, I hope this never happens again, but it does, I will be not as passive as I was in my own defense or, at least, I will gather enough evidence to help catch this individual and help make the roads safer for all of us.

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4 thoughts on “Lessons Learned —on a scary ride home

  1. Signalling left and turning right was very clever. I’m glad the other car exited without trying that ploy because the crazy person might not have fallen for it twice. I’ve never encountered a driver so intent on venting his/her road rage – and I hope I never do! The person you encountered seems like someone who might also have a gun in the car or a person who was at least hoping to get into a fight with an angry driver. This generally seems like a safe place to live, so it’s good to be reminded occasionally that no place on Earth is – or ever has been – 100% safe.

    I would feel lost without my cell phone in my left-hand pants pocket – so lost that I can’t imagine why any clothing manufacturer would make pocketless skirts or pants. Fashionistas might buy, but the skinny-minnies are usually young and that demographic is almost constantly electronically connected. Maybe their devices are so rarely out of their hands that pockets aren’t needed!

    I’ve adopted the good habit of reporting all types of road hazards ansd new accidents to the police. After spending two or more hours in my car commuting each day, I’ve come to know my car exceptionally well and I’ve gotten too good at multitasking. Soooo, I’m pretty sure my phone would have been in my hands in seconds. The reason I say too good at multitasking is that I noticed during the last year of commuting that I was multitasking too casually and knew that for my own safety I needed to find a job closer to home so I could drive less, but drive with more common sense.

    I agree that it would have been too dangerous for you to have been rummaging in your purse for you phone. The driver was so unpredictable that you had to be ready to change your course instantly. I’m glad you weren’t harmed!

    Kaye

  2. I never use the cell when I am driving; that is why I used to keep it in the purse, but no longer. Now, it sits on the seat next to me. Programing the cell to dial the police when I press one button, is another precaution. Yes, this is a safe place to live, yet bad stuff can and does happen every where. I feel like a wide-eyed child who has just learned the facts of life. It should not have taken a scary incident to propel me into action.

  3. Carole,

    I too was harrassed by another driver, definitely male. I was driving to Albany, NY in the middle lane of the highway when a car just had to cut in front of me. I had to break in order to avoid a collision.

    After he was in front of me, he then proceded to slow down until he was going below the speed limit. Naturally, I then changed lanes and was in front of him.

    I didn’t think of anything of it the first time it happened but then he proceded to do the same thing to me again. All during rush hour traffic.

    After the third time I realized he was definitly doing this on purpose. I keep my phone in the cup holder so it will always be handy. I was going to call the police but then I had an oportunity to get into the left lane, speed up and then was able to get away from him because he was caught in the traffic and couldn’t change lanes fast enough. I think he was trying to get me to rear end him, then claim it was my fault. However, at 65 mph, that was really dangerous. We both could have been killed.

    To date, I still keep my cell phone in the cup holder.You never know when you might need it.
    You might want to consider getting a hands – free device when you have to drive in secluded areas. This way you never have to let go of the steering wheel.
    Gari

  4. Your story is similar to mine except that you were in even more danger; you were traveling at a higher speed and surrounded by traffic.

    Thank you for the suggestion of a hands-free device. I never would have considered buying one before.

    Carole

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