I have long been an impatient driver. I pass people who are driving slowly, I stick to the leftmost lanes virtually at all times. I try to be within 10 mph of the speed limit, but there are plenty of times where I’ve gone above that benchmark. When I was maybe halfway through my pregnancy with Eli, I took a step back and realized that it was time to drive more carefully. It wasn’t just me anymore and I needed to be more responsible.
In the 13 months Eli has been here, I have made an effort to tailgate less, to stay close to the speed limit and most of all, to drive defensively. I still speed unintentionally from time to time. I still throw my hands up and occasionally my finger up at terrible drivers, but I try hard to drive safely and responsibly. And after last week, I will try even harder.
The drive to Vegas is not a terribly arduous one. There are no windy roads, there are no especially steep grades to climb. It is hot and dull and long. From our house to Vegas, without traffic, would be about 3.5 hours. I knew that if I timed Eli’s nap right, he would sleep for a considerable portion of that, so we left around 10.
About 2 hours into our drive, the freeway narrowed to two lanes in each direction. There was a nice consistent shoulder on the right, I assume for the big rigs that would need to pull off in an emergency. On the left there was a wide dirt area between the two sides of the freeway. At some points the dirt was level with the road, at other points there was a big drop off. And at some points there were large bushes/trees scattered throughout.
I noticed that when the road narrowed, there were a few people who were driving less safely than I was comfortable with. They were weaving between cars, speeding faster than the rest of us (who were going a solid 75mph in a 70 speed limit) and so I turned my music down, slowed my speed a little and focused. I felt like I needed to go into that defensive mode, and I’m endlessly glad I did.
A few minutes after I started to get uncomfortable, I was preparing to pass a big rig and was a few car lengths behind the person in front of me, which was probably a little too close, but there were a lot of cars and it was just sort of how things were moving. I noticed a car behind me on my right, coming up toward the back of the big rig. It was a greenish gold compact car and it was going faster than the big rig, but not faster than I was at that point. I assumed that car would fall in behind me since I was very close to passing the rig and there was a fair amount of space behind my car.
I wasn’t paying much attention as the greenish car approached but soon I realized it was driving right along side me and that he was rapidly approaching the back of the big rig. And then something strange happened. The greenish car’s front bumper was maybe a foot in front of mine (the big rig was CLOSE ahead) and suddenly the car made a move to cut in front of me. There was almost no room between the big rig and me and certainly if I didn’t get out of the way, we would’ve collided. And so I swerved into the center divider, going 75 mph, holding onto the wheel for dear life. I fishtailed and skidded for a long way before coming to a stop.
When I finally stopped, I had so much adrenaline coursing through my body, I am amazed I didn’t vomit or pass out. I was flushed, my heart was racing and before I could even catch my breath, I was crying. I stayed in the center for several minutes, trying to calm myself down. I looked in the back and Eli was sound asleep, completely unaware of how close we came to a really severe car accident.
People have died along this stretch of highway, it’s not uncommon due to the speed people drive and the way the road is designed. And as we traveled on, I noticed that if this had happened even a mile down the road, we’d have likely rolled due to the big drop off on the left. I don’t know what would’ve happened to us if we hadn’t gotten as lucky as we did.
I don’t know if that greenish car was trying to pass me or just made an honest mistake. I know that I saw many other cars driving recklessly that day, all in an attempt to get somewhere sooner. Those people rely on everyone else to drive safely, while they speed and weave and put their desire to get somewhere quickly ahead of everyone else’s wellbeing. And the reality is that they’re only going to get to their destination a few minutes ahead of everyone else.
The fact is that we were lucky. This happened at the very perfect place and if it hadn’t, the result could’ve been horrible. A car accident next to a big rig at 75 miles per hour, especially involving a 5 foot drop off the shoulder would’ve been catastrophic. I know this and it shakes me to my core. We could’ve been seriously injured. We could’ve died. I’ve nearly gotten in many accidents in my 14 years of driving, but nothing that even compared to this.
My intention in writing this is simple, I want people to slow down. I want people to drive more safely. I want people to stop taking advantage of safe drivers to pave the way for their reckless driving. I’m not asking you this because I have a child, it’s not about that at all. I’m asking you to do this because I am lucky to not have been serious injured and because as a former reckless driver, I wish someone had told me earlier how stupid I was being. Maybe you’ve driven the same way for 10 years or 20 years or even longer, but that doesn’t mean that what you’re doing isn’t stupid or unsafe.
Getting to your destination 5 minutes earlier is not worth the risk of reckless driving. Put your phone down, pay attention to the cars around you and slow down. Please.