Friday, June 10, 2005

Bad drivers, vol. I

I was shaken up today on the way to work when some dumbass in an SUV pulled out in front of me--right in front of me--on the highway. It's a somewhat odd section of State Road 46, right after it becomes a highway. The speed limit is 50 or so. On my right is a row of hotels with a road serving them, which intersects the highway. There is no merge lane because the traffic on that section of 46 (heading out of town) is rarely heavy. You either turn right onto the highway, or turn across two lanes of traffic for a left turn.

So, I'm going along at about 45-50 mph in the left lane, when out of the corner of my eye I see movement to the right; very rapidly the movement is right in front of me as I realize an SUV is moving out into the highway. Let me stress that we're talking about mere feet away, here. There was no excuse for this SUV to be trying to pull across both lanes with me there. It was not a matter of this person becoming impatient and trying to get across quickly enough to avoid me. This genius simply took off across the highway, presumably making a left turn, without even checking to see if the way was clear. It was not clear; I was literally right there.

It would have been a certain collision, a very bad one, because there was no time for me to brake, none at all. As soon as I saw the SUV I began to brake and swerved to the left to increase the amount of time before hitting him. Right was not an option because the SUV was too far over to the right to avoid safely--it was definitely moving too slowly to be far enough to the left. The driver of the SUV finally realized what he or she was doing--I believe he or she saw me swerving left and responded by stopping, which fortunately allowed me to swerve safely around and get back on the highway. I would estimate I still came within about three feet of a collision.

A check in my rear view showed that the SUV was firmly in my lane when it came to a stop. When I began to swerve it had just begun to enter my lane and was still moving--I would say at that point it was 20 feet away. When I first saw it it was already well out onto the highway, about maybe 30 feet away and moving at a pretty good clip. This all happened in maybe one second or so. I just had time to gasp "Fucking moron!" and turn the wheel, not even to lay on the horn.

I was incredibly lucky for many reasons. There was traffic behind me, but it was still pretty far away, at least seven to ten seconds behind me (that was really more lucky for the idiot SUV driver, who found him or herself stopped in the middle of a highway). This also happened at a point on 46 when there is no real median or curb, just a flat expanse of concrete with rumble strips inbetween the opposing lanes of traffic. In little Scout, if I had swerved into a curb or even into a median, I could have flipped easily (I believe if there had been a curb or a ditch, I would have acted differently; most likely just braked like hell). It was also clear, dry weather, meaning my traction was very good; the car jerked around a little after the swerve before I righted it and moved it back onto the highway, but I felt under control at all times. About 30 minutes later it was pouring down rain, so that could have been bad. The driver of the SUV could also have tried to beat me by speeding up instead of slowing down or stopping, and I honestly don't think he or she would have made it; it was simply too close. I would have T-boned the SUV for sure.

Right now I'm really just glad to be alive, unhurt, and with an untouched car. I hope the person who was driving that SUV went home and thought long and hard about what it means to be driving a large, heavy vehicle, the responsibility that carries.

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