Driving is just not very much “fun” anymore. The fact that I’ve personally been in the right place at the wrong time, to witness three major highway events, in the past several months, has convinced me of this. I doubt there are many of us anymore who remember taking a Sunday afternoon “drive” just for the fun of it. Three dollars a gallon (or more) for gasoline, has irrevocably changed our driving habits.
Even with the increased costs, weekday traffic is increasing, and with the increase comes increased risk for collisions. Both highway and automotive engineers are working to make driving safer, but they can only go so far – the ultimate responsibility falls to the driver, to be aware of what is going on around you. Getting the big picture of all the traffic around you, and planning your potential “escape route” is an invaluable tool for every driver.
One of the events I recently witnessed, happened on a very busy I-5 off ramp, during the afternoon commute. A large truck, pulling a low-boy trailer with a tracked excavator on-board, was ahead of me, in the right-most of the two exit lanes. I was in the left of the two exit lanes, which would put me on the “outside” of the curve, relative to the large truck. Something didn’t “feel right”; I think I actually said out loud – even though I was alone in my car, “That truck is going too fast to make the curve.”
I started to brake, to reduce my speed and prevent me from being on the outside of the truck and then watched as the “inside” tires on the trailer started to raise off the road way, slowly at first, and then with increasing speed, as the trailer and excavator rolled over onto its left side. The tractor stayed upright, but not before it too, had attained about a 30 degree angle before the 5th-wheel assembly separated from the overturning trailer. When the dust (literally) settled, the excavator was on its side, the trailer was upside down, and the tractor, while still upright, was facing the opposite direction from its original path. The off ramp was completely blocked for the remainder of the afternoon commute.
I believe this event only again proves the effectiveness of getting the big picture: what type of vehicles are on the road, near you, where are they in relation to your vehicle, is the configuration of the roadway presenting a hazard of its own? All of these factors played a role in the event I’ve described, and I truly believe getting the big picture, and taking timely action, prevented me from being under that tipping load.
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