Thursday, June 07, 2012

I know this is going to sound like blaming the victim, and for that I'm sorry

However, when this happens:

On a clear summer night in 2010, Robert Mendoza was driving with his family on U.S. 90 near Zarzamora Street when he noticed traffic in front of him slow down and move to either side of the highway.
 It might be best to get your ass over too, instead of  sitting there.

Strangely enough, I speak from personal experience.  On 7 May, this happened (I'm being lazy & doing a cut-and-paste from Facebook):

So, because I was so tired, I left home about an hour before Erik got off work, figuring I would just sit in the parking lot & read and wait on him. Because it was early, I decided to take the long way around, going up O'Connor and then dropping down the access road to Thousand Oaks. I had just turned onto the access road when I saw a pair of headlights in the distance. Since this is a one-way road, this was obviously worrying, but I thought maybe I was seeing things and started eyeballing the curb wondering if I could hop it if need be (note to self: next time, DO IT). About 15 seconds later, a car goes flying by me at highway speeds. o_0

Bitterly cursing my lack of a cell phone, I decided to stop at the next sign of life & ask someone to call 911. As I was approaching the next intersection, I saw a cop flip on its lights and haul ass out of the Chevron toward the other access road. I pulled up to the building and flagged down a Borg ambulance supervisor and explained what had happened and asked him to call 911. He told me the cop was indeed going after the wrong-way driver; saying that the guy was running from the officer.

Thank God, as I told the man, that I was in the right lane, not the left. I prayed (in between mental rounds of "Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck") that he was caught before hitting someone.
 As if that's not bad enough, something pretty similar happened Monday.  My mother-in-law and I were headed back to her hotel room, which is between Perrin-Beitel and Starcrest, and just before we turned in, someone drove past us going the wrong way up the access road.  At a normal rate of speed this time, and in the middle of the day.  So, an early drunk, or just an idiot?  I don't know. 

If you're keeping score, that's two up close and personal interactions with wrong way drivers in a month.  About, oh, six week ago (maybe a bit more), Erik and I were driving on I-10 near Probandt and saw an alert on Transguide that said WRONG WAY DRIVER ON FREEWAY.  Again, this was during the day.  So we exited at the next opportunity--and were the only people to do so.

The newspaper article linked up there called wrong way crashes a "hidden problem."  I'm not sure how hidden they can be anymore.

It's plain we need to be aware of, and prepared for, wrong way drivers.  Half my lifetime ago, my driver's ed teacher told me that if we were driving on the Interstate late at night, keep to the right lane.  I'm not sure if his reasoning--that drunk drivers make a conscious decision to stick to the slow lane because they know they're impaired--was accurate, but the advice was good.  Even if you're not on the freeway, stay out of the left lane.  It seems that "drive on the right" is deeply-ingrained behavior even with the drunkest of people, so adhere to that yourself.  Know more than one way to get where you're going, and if it's a dangerous time of night (the second article says after midnight, though for what it's worth neither of my encounters met this guideline) make sure you're not on a route without shoulders or some other way for you to get the fuck over if need be.  Keep aware of your surroundings, and take a clue from other drivers.

I'm sure I'm missing something, but what?

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