How not to deal with an unruly driver
Drivers should always expect the unexpected. But how should you react when confronted by an unruly, unstable motorist on the road?
SPECIAL TO THE STAR
Expect the unexpected. That's the Collision-avoidance advice given at driving schools but, in reality, that's much easier said than done. As a new driver in the mid-1980s, I learned this firsthand on an overnight trip to Montréal with four other family members. It was about 3 a.m. on a pitch black, unlit, rural section of Hwy. 401. The highway had two lanes in each direction, gravel shoulders, and a grass median.
As I drove along at 100 km/h in the right lane, I could see another vehicle had suddenly come to a complete stop in the passing lane ahead. Unsure if there had been a collision with an animal or something, I slowed down and lit my high beams to check for hazards ahead.
Unfortunately, the other driver apparently mistook my high beams as a "go ahead" sign and promptly cut directly in front of me onto the right shoulder. I slammed on the brakes, narrowly avoiding a crash — then I laid in on the horn.
The horn apparently angered this suspected impaired driver, who did a jackrabbit start from the gravel shoulder. His car fishtailed right and left, and then shot out of control across both lanes of the highway — nearly striking my vehicle again!
With no cell phone, I opted to get my family safely away rather than tour the back roads looking for a pay phone to call police. But the lesson I took from this was: When bad things happen, say nothing to the other driver and lay off the horn, lest you make things worse. That and stay off the highway overnight when the drunks are out.
This past weekend, I got another lesson in the unexpected. I was on a main road in
Toronto with a 60 km/h limit, three lanes in each direction, and divided by a curb-height concrete median.
I was in the middle northbound lane, coasting towards a red light. There were two cars stopped in the lane ahead of me, and additional cars stopped in each of the other northbound lanes. At that time, a male bicyclist, who looked to be about 20 and wasn't wearing a helmet, rode off the right sidewalk and pedaled directly head-on against traffic in the rightmost lane.
Only about a meter ahead of my Ford F-150 pickup truck, he suddenly shot across into my lane. I slammed on the brakes from 20 km/h and he simultaneously did a sideways skid-stop, missing my bumper by mere centimeters. He then stood up and said: "Why didn't you just stop, man?"
I was so dumbfounded that anyone would risk their lives so meaninglessly by ignoring the most basic traffic safety rules, I didn't say a thing. He then endangered his life again by continuing into the left lane, causing that driver to skid to a stop as well.
I don't fault that other driver at all. The cyclist nearly caused two collisions even though he was within meters of a traffic light controlled intersection where he could get across the street safely. But, instead, he chose to defy the law and common sense by riding the wrong way, head-on against traffic, and cut across occupied lanes, then blindly rushed out from in front of a large vehicle (my truck).
There's no way anyone could have expected that.
Why driving just isn't fun anymore
SPECIAL TO THE STAR
Back in the day, as the NASCAR guys like to say, going for a drive was enjoyable. I'm not so sure anymore.
Last week I drove down to Windsor and Sarnia for a family occasion and leading up to departure, I was looking forward to it.
In the past, I have driven to Edmonton, Jasper, Florida, Kansas, Cape Breton and even Newfoundland (not all in one trip). In other words, I have "gotten around" as the saying goes. Most of these many kilometres were driven in my trusty 1982 Volvo GLT. I enjoy driving this car and always prepared for each trip with enthusiasm. Every one of these excursions was memorable and pleasant to say the least.
So with the same enthusiasm, I looked forward to heading down the highway with the sunroof open and embarking on another driving adventure. I didn't realize how much things had changed.
The first phase of the trip was along the 401, but since it was a weekday and not rush hour, how bad could it be, right?To qualify my next statement on my drive along the 401, you should understand this. I have raced cars for more than two decades. There have been races on glare ice in the Ontario Ice Racing Championships. Races where we have been running at around 200 km/h in the rain up the back straight of Mosport with near zero visibility. I have had race cars blow up their motors directly in front of me putting me into their newly discarded engine oil and smoke, again at speeds reaching 200 km/h whilst setting up for corner 8 at the end of the Mario Andretti straight. All hair raising, tension filled, white knuckled, attention getting moments that I'll never forget. To be able to say that the trip on the 401 between Mississauga and London ranked up there with some of these tense racing moments in terms of fear factor certainly says something about the present state of our highways.
What really caught my attention was the sheer volume of trucks. At times they easily outnumbered cars on that stretch of road. There were times I was completely surrounded by trucks which is a situation I try very hard to avoid. I was not speeding per se. I was trying to drive with the flow of traffic. Unfortunately the majority of traffic turned out to be large trucks. As I tried to keep out of their way and basically stay clear of them, we either caught up to more or others caught us. I try to keep in the rightmost lane but even travelling at modest speeds I passed trucks that were going slow in the middle lane. These slower trucks should have been cruising in the right lane, but alas they planted themselves in the middle lane and traffic was forced to go left or right around them.
It made the drive tense and not an enjoyable event. The volume of trucks travelling that corridor is much greater than I remember. It seems big business has turned our highways into their warehouses. On top of that we now must deal with the new double tractor trailer which is pulling two full sized trailers. It's no wonder we are always reading or hearing about truck crashes on the 401 or 400. Roads or ramps blocked for hours, costing our economy millions of dollars each year.
With that number of trucks rumbling down our highways operated mainly by poorly trained or fatigued drivers sharing the roads with motorists that have minimal driver education, we have a recipe for disaster. The only time this drive was enjoyable was when I got off the 401 and took a route less travelled. There were fewer trucks and cars and a lot less stress.
We drove back from Sarnia up to St Jacobs and the highways through farm land and Mennonite country were peaceful, green and scenic. Farmers would wave from their horse drawn threshers and driving seemed enjoyable once more. Now you have to look for it and get off the beaten path. There was a day when a drive in the country, even on the big highways was fun and enjoyable. An excursion to a far off destination was something to plan and prepare for with excitement. I'm glad I can at least remember days like that.
Copyright Dominion Driving Schools. Feb, 2013.