TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Editorials

January 23, 2014

Keep it cool behind the wheel

CORBIN — I was driving on the roads last Friday, working my way home to Tennessee.

It was cold. It was dark. And it was snowing.

The weather was tolerable when I left Corbin, but as I wound my way down U.S. 25E, the snow picked up and the flakes got larger.

The clear roads became snowy, and slick in spots.

While I can drive in that stuff, I know many other drivers cannot — and the combination could be deadly.

I had just gotten through Pineville — and that’s when the road conditions deteriorated. Several points along the route were nothing but tire tracks — it was pretty dangerous.

There were maybe a dozen cars within a mile or so of my car, and we were all heading the same direction.

I was likely the slowest driver, because the snow was truly blinding at that point — and none of those cars or trucks were behind me.

I caught a glance in the side-view mirror of a set of headlights coming behind me — and a couple glances later I realized that vehicle was moving along pretty fast.

Then I noticed a second vehicle coming along next to him in the passing lane — and both vehicles appeared to be bearing down on me.

Suddenly, I was blinded.

The vehicle behind me, a tractor-trailer, actually high-beamed me to get out of the way. The car passing him passed me, leaving the passing lane open for this guy to go on.

He didn’t.

Instead, he continuously flicked the high beams on and off, wanting to force me somewhere else. I could see nothing — his headlights were so blinding, and combined with the onslaught of snowfall, I could barely make out the lane I was trying to maintain.

I was furious, and ready to explode in rage.

But I just took a deep breath and let off on the gas, dropping my speed from about 40 mph down to 30 — and that finally prompted that lunatic to pass me and go on. He passed me, hanging on the horn, and cut me off and jammed on the brakes.

I could see better, however, and just continued to slow down until he got tired of playing and drove on.

But that road rage I felt was something I’ve come to grips with when I’m behind the wheel.

Once I was a raving crazy when people put me at risk on the road.

But an incident a few years ago made me very aware of the potential results of road rage.

I had just dropped the girls off with their mother in late spring and was leaving the residence to return home. It was the tail-end of the “five o’clock rush.”

The way to get onto the main road was a bit tough, although checking traffic on the driver’s side was easy — it was the passenger side that was blind.

However, the speed limit on that main road was 35 mph, so traffic coming from the blind side would have to be wary of that possibility.

And, those pulling out like I was preparing to had to be ready for someone coming around that blind corner.

So I pulled out into the road.

I began driving, and checked the rearview mirror to see if any traffic came around that blind corner.

Just when I looked, a car shot around the bend — and it was moving pretty fast.

He was going so fast I wasn’t even sure he knew I was in front of him — so I tapped the brakes so the lights would come on.

Mistake — huge mistake.

He whipped out beside me — on a two-lane road, with double yellow stripes, on another blind corner.

I shouted at him through my open window that he was crazy.

A second later, he proved my point — he cut me off, nearly hitting the front bumper.

And then, he stopped.

And leapt from his car.

And with a lot of screaming words, began making his way toward my car.

Not sure what I had gotten into, I quickly looked for a way out.

Before he got to the car, I shot through the grass next to his stopped car — and floored it.

Figuring he would give chase, I suddenly remembered a wide spot in that two-lane road was coming up.

I also figured he would definitely attempt something crazy while in that stretch of the road, so I sped up even more to get through that spot.

But it didn’t matter.

No sooner than the wide part narrowed, he repeated his earlier lunacy by entering the opposing lanes of traffic — with traffic coming.

I barely had time to notice the smoking tires from those people before he cut me off again.

And jumped out of his car.

And began a screaming litany as he walked toward me.

I glanced to the area next to him, and knew I couldn’t drive through there — it was a two-foot ditch.

Of course, I wasn’t planning on a head-on crash either.

And in the midst of that panic, my brain decided I was dreaming.

I even remember thinking to myself, “any minute I’ll wake up.”

But I didn’t wake up.

Before I even knew what was happening, his fist was aiming for my mouth.

At the last second, I jerked my arm up — and spared my mouth.

But not my face.

With that punch, he blacked my eye, and broke and stole my prescription sunglasses.

Shocked, furious and angry, I decided no way this guy’s going to hit me again.

I floored the car, and lurched into the oncoming lane of traffic — knocking this whacko out of the way.

Behind me, more than 20 cars had to stop for this unfolding assault.

I got around him, and back into the lane. About 30 or 40 feet from the scene was an apartment building with a drive-through style of parking lot.

I pulled in there, figuring crazy man would get back in his car and drive on, leaving me just enough time to write his license plate number down.

I figured very much incorrectly.

After scrambling for paper and a pen, I looked up to see where he was on the road.

He wasn’t there — instead, there he was, running into the parking lot after me, leaving his car with the door open stopped in the middle of the road.

I screamed a vulgar series of expletives in his direction, then shot back out into the street in the opposite direction of him.

Then I stopped my car so I could write his plate down before he returned to his vehicle.

And he drove away.

I went through all the proper channels, called all the right people, filled out all the paperwork and even picked the fool out of a driver’s license photo lineup — that part took about two seconds.

But through failed court systems and a confused set of law enforcement agencies, the warrant was never served on the guy. And the responding officer told me that the guy had been arrested under similar circumstances in the past.

It was a serious lesson, and one I had to take to heart. While somebody tailgating me or running stop signs still infuriates me to no end, I had to learn to put those potentially life-threatening situations into perspective and realize it could have been worse.

I verbalize my anger quietly.

I do that standard gesturing — below the dashboard.

I try my best to keep my cool.

So take this lesson with you the next time you get behind the wheel — you never know who sits behind the wheel of the vehicle that’s put you in harm’s way.

That guy could have had a gun.

John Ross is a staff writer for the Times-Tribune. He can be reached at jross@thetimestribune.com.

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