By Joe Darby
I think it’s inevitable that as I progress — if that’s the correct word — deeper into geezerhood, I am becoming more of a stodgy driver.
Now, I am not yet one of those pawpaws who drive 31 miles an hour in a 45 mph zone, and I hope I never will be.
But I take care to come to full stops at stop signs, I try not to run yellow lights (although that is sometimes impossible to avoid) and I rarely drive more than 75 on the interstate.
And there are lots and lots of other cautious, sensible drivers out there too. But there are some others, who, well, as a psychiatrist would say, pose a danger to themselves and others.
Mary and I were driving up I-49 not too long ago, with medium to light traffic around us when all of a sudden I spot a motorcyclist in my rearview mirror, quite a distance away. I first picked him up in my vision when he swerved from behind an 18-wheeler. He was probably 300 yards or so behind me at that time.
Well, within almost literally no time, he was up with me and a couple of more vehicles in my immediate area. He (or it could have been a she, although likely not) was switching lanes like mad. There was another 18-wheeler about 20 feet behind me in the passing lane and the Mad Max cyclist weaved in between the truck and me, missing my Challenger by no more than a foot or so as he sped on his way.
The guy had to have been doing 110, at least, because I was doing my customary 75 and he passed me like I was standing still. Within seconds, he was out of sight up the interstate. As he nearly sideswiped my car, I let loose with some expletives that I’m deleting and for once Mary did not reprimand me for my salty language.
The guy either had a death wish or he was really stupid because the biggest danger he was posing was to himself. If he had sideswiped us, I’m fairly confident that I could have maintained control and come out of it okay. That is, unless he had bounced off the 18-wheeler and pancaked directly in front of my car. I imagine rolling over a motorcycle at 75 could have caused some serious problems.
But my point is, if he had lost control at 110 or whatever speed he was doing, the concrete bed of the interstate would not have been very kind to him.
I kept expecting — and to be honest hoping — that as I rode on, I would have seen a police officer preparing to arrest him on the side of the road. But the way he was driving, he probably would have tried to outrun any police vehicle.
I would also not have been surprised to see him involved in a horrible wreck. As it turned out, we never encountered him again. And here’s the thing. Unless he was going somewhere involving a very grave personal emergency and his dangerous antics were a one-time thing, because he got away with his madness on the highway last week, he’ll probably feel himself more or less invulnerable and will continue to drive like that.
And of course he’s not the only person out there who loses all sense of safety when he’s behind the wheel, or in this case, behind the handle bars.
So, be careful, my friends. More than 30,000 Americans are killed in traffic accidents every year. That’s down from 50,000-something annually because today’s vehicles are so much better built. But still, when maniacs are on the road, all bets are off. Stay safe.