Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Adventures in Dealing with Bad Drivers

O vast blogging audience, I seek your insights into a very strange situation I found myself in this evening.

Today as I was driving home, I was driving behind a Very Bad Driver. This person was having a lot of trouble keeping his car on the road. He would drive in a straight line, go over the white stripe on the right or the double yellow stripe on the left, and then jerk the steering wheel to get himself back into our lane, with the net effect of zig-zagging down the road.

I thought he was probably texting or using his cell phone or something. I thought about calling 911 or something, because his driving was seriously dangerous. I feared for the lives of the people riding their bikes on the shoulder. Luckily he was on the double-yellow portion of his zig-zag when we passed them. But I could not call 911 because I was on my workplace's reservation, not on a public road, so the 911 folks would not be able to get to us. I could have called the laboratory security people, except that would have required me to look at my badge to find their phone number and then type it into my phone while trying to drive and not get myself killed by this crazy driver.

So what I did instead was honk at him every time he crossed either of the lines. Then I gestured to my eyes and then to the road, trying to indicate that he should keep his eyes on the road. While trying to observe what the heck he was doing, I began to think he wasn't actually texting. I can't be sure, but he was probably not drunk, either, because there is no alcohol allowed at our workplace, and I think of drunk drivers as following more of a sinusoidal path rather than a zig-zag. (I readily admit that that could be a false assumption.) I think he did see me gesturing. It really didn't help, though. He kept zig-zagging, and at 55+ mph as he had been doing throughout this encounter.

Eventually we got to the stoplight where I would turn left and he would go straight. At this point I drove up next to him and gestured to my eyes and the road once more. He looked terrified of me and of the road in general, as if he must be a brand-new driver or something. But he did not behave as I (or presumably, most people) did as a brand-new driver: drive really slowly but stay on the road. It seems to me that you have to have a certain level of skill in order to pass your driver's test, and this guy appeared to have not yet acheived that level yet. If he was a novice driver, he didn't seem to be qualified to drive alone.

So, vast internet audience, I have two questions for you: 1, What was that guy's problem? and 2, What should I have done in that situation?


Scott said...

Next time pull over and call lab security.

I'm going to bet on "drunk".

Madeleine said...

It sounds to me like he may have been on some kind of mind-altering substance. It could have been cold medicine, or something more potent.

I agree that new drivers generally slow down when they feel overwhelmed, but possibly he didn't have that instinct.

I'm not sure I would have done anything differently. I suppose you could have rolled down your window at the stop light and asked "Are you OK?" but who knows what kind of response you'd have gotten. Another option, if it happens again, would be to pull over and call the security desk safely.

FrauTech said...

Just because alcohol is not allowed doesn't mean he hadn't been consuming it, or some other substance. Or maybe he's just a terrible driver and was afraid of your honking and gesturing and didn't realize how all over the place he was. When I see suspected drunk drivers I just get as far away from them as possible. Sounds like you didn't have a chance to pass him or turn somewhere else, in your case I probably would've just increased my following distance to the max or maybe even pulled over if there were people behind me. Don't want to be next to these crazies when something goes wrong.

Rebecca said...

Thanks for your comments so far! Scott and FrauTech, I don't know why I didn't think to pull over myself. Madeleine, your idea of asking him if he was okay is a good one too.

It's a two-lane road out in the middle of basically a wildlife reserve. I was too scared to pass him because of his erratic driving, but there weren't very many other cars on the road at that time (6:00 or so).

I'm also going to program the number of lab security into my speed dial so if something like this ever happens again, I'll be able to reach them at the touch of a single button.

ScienceGirl said...

I would have stopped and called lab security (or police in the same situation outside the fence) to get him off the road for my and others' sake. Even if he is a new driver, he should not endanger others.