A puff of smoke on the westbound side of I-10 in Florida, a few miles east of the I-75 turnoff caught my eye, highlighting the coiled black serpent, a road ‘gator, that exploded.
It was a red, four-day sedan, white roof, traveling at the top of the 70 mph speed limit. Tires squealed. In my westcoast and hood mirrors, I saw the car careen toward the shoulder on its side, become airborne, and fly 100 feet crashing into the trees. I reached for my phone to dial 911.
I don’t know if there was a fatality, but there were injuries. Just five seconds behind the car, a dark blue four-door compact traveled in the hammer lane, followed closely, too closely, by a big truck, both vehicles were passing another big truck in the granny lane.
The crash happened at 11 o’clock in the morning, the sun was shining, traffic was moderate. It happened because the driver had not recently checked the pressure in his tires. When he set out in the morning, I’d put money on it, the tire was almost flat.
It wasn’t the only crash of the day, three hours later at two o’clock, southbound on I-95, were were heading to Fort Lauderdale, at milepost 300, a line of police cars and four wheelers were stopped in the shoulder. A couple of hundred feet from the shoulder, in the thick stand of Florida Pines was a car flush with the trees, driver side down, police officer standing on the passenger side.
Another single vehicle accident. Driving too fast, following too close. Florida and Texas are notorious for car trains. Ten to 20 cars, driving at the top of the speed limit, in the hammer lane, without even a car space between then. A quiver of distraction, a bad patch of asphalt is all it takes to derail the train.
This week is the beginning of the summer heavy traffic season, Canada Day was last Sunday and July 4th is tomorrow. I had written a post about how Americans are all about baseball and basketball and Canadians about hockey, but that we share the largest trading relationship in the WORLD. But there’s something else we share, we are lousy drivers.
Overworked and harried, entitled and reckless, distracted and tired, we motorists are a menace. If you truly loved someone, you would not let them drive. It’s too dangerous out here. I was a deficient driver before Schneider taught me how to drive defensively and to make safe choices.
The majority of crashes come down to one thing, driving too fast and following too close. Driving 58 mph gives us, and you, an additional insurance policy. We have so much more reaction time, than at 62 mph and certainly at 65. The second big reason for crashes is that drivers assume, many times wrongly that their vehicles are in good condition.
When you head out this summer, remember the following:
1. Crashes happen -- they are not motor vehicle accidents, the definition of accident is something that happens when there is no warning, car crashes are NOT accidental -- in four years of driving over-the-road, more than 600,000 miles between us, we have seen hundreds of crashes, flipped over vehicles, fender benders and fatalities. Most times it comes down to driving too fast or following too close or both.
Leave space. Slow down. Trust me, you're only saving a few minutes on a long trip and virtually nothing on a short trip. That extra slam on the fuel to get around me only gets you to the same stop light ten seconds sooner than me. I know because I can see you from up here.
2. The in-motion, multi-tasking is frightening. The young blonde -- truly a blonde, but brunettes do this too -- 20-something, in the silver Mazda hatchback south on I-81 in Pennsylvania about exit 20 a couple of weeks ago, driving about 55 mph, a cigarette in her left hand, applying eye shadow with her right hand, using the rear-view mirror.
When you drive, drive. Even if don’t get hurt, crashes are expensive, there’s a deductible to pay on your insurance, never mind the cost of lost time at work. Contrary to current popular belief, you are not special, multi-tasking is dangerous.
3. If you need to stop at the side of the road, get OFF the road, all the way off the road, so far off the road, you think you will tumble into the ditch. There are inexperienced drivers and distracted, sloppy drivers out there. The ones pulling trailers and boats are a special danger because the trailers bounce, the tires can get caught in the ruts where the shoulder meets the zipper, the rumble strip, the same thing happens to the big truck trailers that bounce down the road.
While we try to move over when someone is in the breakdown lane, it is not always possible -- the cars won’t let us in, they are in too much of a hurry or they are not paying attention and don’t see my signal light -- do not be hit by a passing vehicle when you are in the shoulder. AND put your flashers on so everyone knows there is someone in the vehicle.
4. And finally, do you really need to pass me less than a quarter a mile before your exit. This happens all the time. Driver pulls out, passes me, and then slides directly in front of the grill back to the exit.
This is dangerous, do not come back to my lane until you can see my entire grill in your rearview mirror, I try to do this for all vehicles I pass.
A truck traveling 55 mph, weighing 80,000 pounds, needs a lot of space to stop. A big truck can’t stop that fast and you don’t know what is in the truck, if it’s a load of liquid totes or stuffed to the gills with beer, yuck, no one is getting to the lake on time.
Be safe so you enjoy your summer.