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Brake, Swerve, Pray
January 7, 2018
by William P. Meyers

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21st Century Driving

I recently made a long freeway drive. Next time I'll fly, or wiser still, just not go. However, I did gain something from the experience.

Going took two long days of driving, and the return trip did too. On the outward bound trip, on the second day, I was almost forced off the freeway by a large truck that decided to change lanes despite my presence. Then LA turned into a parking lot. I should probably have stopped driving, instead I slowed down and traveled in the right-hand lane. The entire drive took 13 hours when I had expected it to take 9.

Going through LA on the way back was remarkably easy. However, on the second day it started raining hard in Oregon. I know you should not drive as fast in rain as you do on dry pavement. On the other hand, I quickly was reminded that when a giant truck passes you, the spray lowers visibility, already low, to just about zero.

You can hang a reasonable distance behind a car in your lane, allowing the spray to settle, and in the fast lane, going 70 mph, that worked out best. But there are always people who want to go faster. So you have to dodge into the lane to the right so they can pass, or they will pass on your right. In either case they are likely to be frustrated by the cars in front of you, and put you back in the spray zone for a while.

We passed one wreck after another. You would think everyone with a brain would look at the wrecks and slow down a bit, but those driving 80 mph and more continued on their merry way. Finally traffic came to a complete and utter halt. Then we crept along a the interstate at a couple of miles per hour for a long time. I don't know the details, but obviously someone went sliding in the rain, and the wreck blocked all the lanes (3 at that point).

We finally reached an exit, got off, and traveled about half an hour on a country road before getting back on the interstate, beyond the jam. For a while there was almost no traffic, but the rain kept falling. And after a while more speeders managed to pass us.

So instead of arriving in the Tacoma-Seattle area before rush hour, we arrived during rush hour.

Add stop-and-go traffic to the mix, and by go I mean upwards to 70 mph, with people again passing at 80 and higher.

If you drive too far behind the car ahead of you, giving you time to brake when necessary, someone will pull into the hole. And if you brake really hard, you have to hope the driver behind you is also ready to brake hard.

You can also swerve, but of course you might swerve into another car or a barrier.

Brake, Swerve, Pray is my new mantra.

I would emphasize that I do not pray to God. Really, it is just Hoping. Hoping that the braking or swerving works, that I do not hit or get hit.

I know a bunch of people got in wrecks that day. They were not always the fast drivers. Sometimes the speeders and even the drunks cause a responsible driver to crash, then drive away unharmed. But mostly, the safer you drive, the safer you are.

And that is life in the 21st Century. If you don't try to keep up with the traffic, you get left behind. If you do try to keep up, there will always be someone driving faster. And if it rains or ices up, beware: you may become a random casualty, no matter what you do.




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