Monday, August 13, 2007

People like this are why I worry about younger drivers

Typically there is nothing unsafe about driving, as long as you know how to drive and have a little bit of experience, but there are a few idiots that, because of what they do, make me worry for younger drivers in my family. One of my first posts on this blog were about bad drivers, and one, the insurance scammer, is what I met on the road today.

So I was coming back from the store, pretty much minding my own business. I can be an aggressive driver or I can be an assertive/defensive driver, depending on my mood. I was tired, thirsty, and not really feeling like changing the world, so basically I was driving safely. I was minding my speed, mirrors, following distance, all those good things.

Well, I came up behind this red car - a Dodge Neon, I think. Newer model, it was a little more curvy than I remember the Neon being. The car seemed just like all the others, until it stopped. No red light - no light at all actually, the light ahead was green. I had plenty of time to stop, so it wasn't a big deal. Maybe a cat ran across the road, I don't know. I didn't pay it much mind. But then when I didn't see anything, a caution flag waved in my mind. I got around him when it was safe.

I must have either had "easy target" or "has money" written all over me (though I fail to see how), because he sped up and whipped around me. I dropped back, and sure enough, he stopped again, this time in a 55mph zone, and again with no clear reason. His brakes were better than mine, but I was able to get over in time. Both times I passed him, he purposefully looked down and away from me. He didn't want me to see his face.

Maybe I should have called the police. But I figured it would have sounded silly. "This guy keeps cutting me off and slamming on his brakes, I think he's trying to cause an accident and file a fraudulent insurance claim." Yeah, real believable. And maybe there's more to it. But there was.

I was on Hwy. 17 heading south from Washington to Chocowinity. This guy's first stop happened in Washington itself, and the second time we were between the two towns. Chocowinity is basically some homes and businesses around the intersection of Hwy's. 17 and 33, 17 heading to New Bern, Wilmington, and eventually Myrtle Beach; 33 goes to Greenville through a bunch of small towns. Anyway, between the Food Lion and post office in Chocowinity, there is a side road which leads to another side road, which leads to 33. It's not even a shortcut, but it does bypass the light, and it's used as a detour when they're doing road work. So I take that road - dude follows me! I take the one to 33 again, dude follows me again.

We turn on 33, and I don't signal, but I turn onto the road leading home. Dude doesn't signal either, but he follows. He came right up on me, but I knew of another side road which turns at an easy angle. Again without signaling, I took the turn at the last minute. It was an easy turn as planned, but not planning it, the Neon missed it, so I quickly lost him. I don't know what his intention was following me. I could have hit my brakes and turned his game right around on him, but I didn't want to get in an accident, fault regardless. I thought about pulling over, but I didn't have any kind of weapon handy, and who knows what someone like that carries. I used to have a tool at my side, but I sold it to someone who needed it. (A tie rod separater, it looks like a really thick bacon fork.) So I just lost him. When I came back to the road I needed, he was nowhere to be seen - probably went back to 33 in search of easier prey.

Next time, dude, go after a Mercedes or BMW. Not a 20-year-old Honda. (Well, Acura, but from back when Acura and Honda were the same thing - my Acura Legend is just a Honda Accord with slightly better options, still the same car but $30,000 new.)

Oh, if I only had my camera, I might have gotten pictures or video. But maybe if I would have photographed the rear of his car (including license plate) when he stopped he would have been less apt to try to get me a second time, with proof he had pulled it before. When you rear-end someone it's automatically your fault. I don't think proof the guy was trying to cause an accident would change that, but it would make me look like a harder target. These guys want easy marks anyway, obviously the mark's fault, quick settlement, big payoff.

So, my advice to drivers of any experience, keeping a safe distance behind the car in front of you is just as important, if not more so, than many other safety tips. If they slam on their brakes and you don't hit them, most of the time I think they'll go for someone else. If they persist in their malacious efforts, try to take another way home. If you're in a city, throw them for a loop - if you make four right turns and they follow you through all four, they're following you. Take them to a crowded place and stop somewhere people will see you - most likely these people won't make a scene with witnesses.

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