Mere exposure to traffic reminds us of the dangers inherent within it. That’s how it was during my recent 6000-mile cross-country run. Initially, I only encountered expected driver errors like inconsistency of speed or tailgating with unwillingness to pass. But others loomed.
I had just exited onto a frontage road off a Colorado highway when a vehicle to my right departed a stop sign from a cross street. I had enough warning that with moderate-to-heavy braking, I could accommodate his ill-timed takeoff. Instead, he looked at me then suddenly stopped directly in front of my encroaching front end.
Already hard on the brakes, I swerved violently right with plenty of body roll, load shift and tire squeal. Now, the side of my 4-door pickup filled his view while I eagle-eyed what I might hit to my right as I careened both sideways and forward. Luckily, no traffic, but the concrete retaining wall mentally registered as I yanked left when my position barely allowed missing the back of his car in another tire-scrubbing drift.
Besides the jostled road snacks, all was avoided. It served as an impactful reminder that things can change quickly amid any amount of traffic, leaving little time to react. That’s why text and talk phone distraction, which I saw too much of on this trip, is so dangerous. It takes away precious seconds needed for emergencies.
Later, in eastern CO, came torrential rain, darkening the sky and covering the road surface with a thick layer of water. It got so bad that many drivers pulled to the shoulder — but with the visibility so low and concern for being hit from rear I decided to lower my speed (40-45mph) and continue. Semi-trucks, others and I, able to see one another’s lights and stay in control at reduced speed, continued for about ten minutes until we moved out of the storm.
Other drivers made their ways back from the shoulder and it served as another good reminder of how quickly driving can become dangerous.
In Wyoming, when yet another approaching downpour doused the road with water, I witnessed a mishap. As I was slowing northbound on I-25 north of Kaycee (from just going the 80 mph speed limit on that dry four-lane, divided highway) because of the building hydroplane-inducing water level, a southbound pickup was nearly perpendicular in his lane of travel about a half-mile ahead. At first, I thought he was trying to make a U-turn on the gravel access road connecting the divided highways. Instead he was sliding sideways, then suddenly straightened and entered the grassy median at high speed. I saw the underside of his truck as he vaulted about 20 feet upward exiting the median, rotated once, and landed in “my” northbound lanes about a block ahead.
I dispatched police, fire and ambulance via 911 for the badly shaken-but-lucid victim. His physical shaking had subsided by the time help arrived, but he was complaining of back pain. That journey aloft scrubbed off most of his speed, but the compression of the landing must have been severe.
Hope he is okay, but he evidently had too much speed with too little tire tread and the hydroplaning effect literally lifted his truck enough to lose control.
The perpetual message is that danger appears quickly when driving, and one needs to drive defensively to allow for that.
Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.