I guess it’s inevitable, given the number of miles I drive, that I seem to run into more than my share of drivers going the wrong way. Not literally run into them—at least not yet—but I do have occasion to see them quite frequently. Sometimes, I’m lucky and they’re on the other side of the freeway but far too often, they are on my side, barreling toward me at full speed. Being in a semi-truck, I’m not too concerned about my well being, but at a combined speed pushing 140 mph, something tells me these people wouldn’t fare too well in the event of a crash. Me, I’d just have a lot of paperwork to fill out.
I’ve written about this before, I know. But recent events warrant a revisiting.
This past week, I had the opportunity to meet another of these wayward individuals who obviously had lost their way. I saw the car coming, headlights shining brightly, and strangely, on my side of the divider. The good news is the approaching car was in the left lane and I was in the right lane.
The first instinct in such a situation, is to move to the right and get off the road as far as possible. That’s just human instinct. But not being human, the DOT doesn’t see it that way. As a truck driver, I’m not allowed to leave my lane—even to avoid a crash. If I were to do so and cause another crash or if the driver coming at me suddenly figures out his mistake and swerves into me, it could, and likely would, be considered my fault. On the other hand, although there are no guarantees, if I maintain my own lane and there is a crash, I stand a much better chance of not being blamed. Brings a whole new meaning to stand your ground!
The “experts” will tell you when anything like this occurs there is no time to think about what to do. You just react. From the time you realize what is happening until the car goes zooming past is only seconds. Due to (too much) experience, I know the approaching vehicle is usually less than an eighth mile away when the realization occurs. Depending on the speed of both vehicles, that’s somewhere around three to four seconds at the most. Not much time to react. Yet, when it happens it seems as if everything slows down, providing ample time to think all sorts of thoughts and assess the situation.
As soon as I determined the vehicle was on my side of the road, I checked my mirror. A car was slowly trying to pass me. Due to the slight curve of the highway to the right, I knew the driver would be unable to see the oncoming car. And, being beside me, he would have nowhere to go. But what could I do? It’s not like I had time to write a message and hang it out the window!
But, I didn’t have to. I hit my turn signal and abruptly moved to the left, toward the center line, making it appear I was coming over, while not leaving my lane. My action had the intended effect. The car passing me suddenly slowed—amid much cussing from the driver, directed at me, I’m sure. But then immediately, the driver must have seen the headlights coming. He swerved into the right lane behind me so fast, I thought he might wreck.
The wrong-way driver flew past us both and disappeared down the road. The guy in the car behind me stayed there for the next few miles, apparently using me for a shield. In a matter of seconds, I’d gone from the stereotypical truck driver everybody loves to hate, to the guy who could provide a welcomed safety cushion. I know I probably gave the guy beside me a heart attack when he thought I was going to crush him. And I’m sure I was called every name in the book! And then some! I just wish I could have heard what he was saying because I think I had the perfect response:
Bruce A. Borders is the author of more than a dozen books, including: Inside Room 913, Over My Dead Body, The Journey, Miscarriage Of Justice, and The Wynn Garrett Series. Available in ebook and paperback on iTunes, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Diesel Books, and Smashwords, or at www.bruceabordersbooks.weebly.com. Amazon Profile - http://www.amazon.com/Bruce-A.-Borders/e/B006SOLWQS. Bruce A. Borders also serves as the Vice-President of Rave Reviews Book Club.