Road Rage incidents are not that rare these days!

Mike Pehl has advice for anybody who finds themselves in a frightening situation like the one shared by a homeschooling mom recently.

Jennifer L sent DriveSafeRideSafe this question:
“I just watched your DVD and it was wonderful. I have a tough question for you. Today a dear friend of mine posted this on her Facebook page. How would you address this very scary situation? “Last night someone targeted me on the highway. Maybe a gang initiation or insurance fraud attempt, or someone who was completely mentally unhinged. I’ll never know why as they seemed to come out of nowhere in a black car with all markings removed and a paper temporary plates. For about 10 miles on I30 the driver attempted to ram me and run me off the road. When I slowed down so they could get ahead of me they slowed to 30 miles an hour, refusing to move on. When I changed lanes to the far side of the highway, they followed. They jumped in front of me and slammed on their breaks over and over. I got on the phone with 911 who said they could send an officer but it might be a while. Going around a curve the driver attempted to ram me from the side to push me off the side of a bridge, but I slammed on my break in time to miss them by a hair. This made them angry and they began weaving erratically in front of me across 3 lanes so I couldn’t pass. Then the driver slowed down again, came to a full stop in front of me in the middle of the highway and started to get out of the car. I could see the angry young woman who appeared to be PREGNANT reaching for something from her front seat with the intent to move toward me. Fearing a gun, the 911 operator who was still on the phone with me urged me to escape saying “Get out of there, drive, drive!!” There was so much oncoming traffic that I was sure I would be hit, but the operator agreed it was my best option. I jumped into traffic almost causing a wreck, sped away, and she tried to follow. At this point everyone on the highway must have wondered why there was a crazy woman in a minivan weaving in and out of traffic going 90 mph. I was kind of hoping to get pulled over, but as I learned in my 911 call there isn’t a whole lot that can be done to help you if someone attempts to assault you with their car. After a while I felt I’d lost the driver but it was hard to tell in the dark with so many headlights. As I pulled into Forney I was never so grateful for the sight of hay bales and slow drivers.”

Mike Pehl’s Answer:

First of all, wow – that’s a heckuva story. Crazy scary and unfortunately it IS believable in today’s world.

Yes, this incident could have been related to something like a gang initiation, or could be related to somebody totally under the influence from drugs, or could have been triggered by some action the attacked-driver made on the road earlier that they didn’t even realize had affected the person who ended up being so violently aggressive towards them.

Regardless of the cause, obviously the behavior of the aggressor in this story is totally unacceptable, and could easily have resulted in loss of life on the road. This kind of scenario is very, very dangerous.

My best advice in this kind of situation is:

1. Never stop your car. Your odds of surviving are better if you keep moving. It’s a slightly different scenario but people have been victimized when they were lured to stop their car because they saw a carseat on the side of the road with a “baby” (actually a doll), and when they act as a good samaritan they are attacked.

2. Do NOT drive to a police station, especially in a rural area. There is no guarantee anybody will be in the building and able to help you quickly enough! There was a road rage incident in Minnesota just last year where a motorcycle driver was the aggressor towards the driver of a car. That driver went to a police station, but the officers were out on patrol instead of in the building. Before the driver of the car could find help, he was murdered in the parking lot.

Instead of thinking about a police station, head for a hospital Emergency Room entrance. There is ALWAYS somebody on duty there, and usually some kind of security as well. Of course calling 911 is important, and even if they cannot get police support to you, they can get advance warning to the people at the hospital that a high-risk situation is heading their way.

3. You must try to remain calm when you are trying to stay away from a crazed, aggressive driver like this one, even though it’s very difficult. There is a real problem with trying to get away from them, but also making sure that you do not drive so dangerously yourself that you end up crashing from your own maneuvers at high speeds. Somehow you must try to balance out those two issues; a tragedy can happen easily from your own actions driving evasively, so you must try to maintain physical control of the vehicle and emotional control of yourself as much as possible.

4. The last piece of advice I have is also to always be aware of where your car’s tires are, in relation to the cars nearby you. This is actually one of the basic Defensive Driving concepts I teach to all my students. If you are next to another car, and your front tires are “in the middle,” meaning BEHIND the front tires of the other car but in front of their rear tires, then you are not in a position of control. It’s very easy for the other car to become the “rudder” of your vehicle; they have the advantage in terms of leverage if they decide to bring the side of their car against yours and try to steer you off the side of the road. If YOUR front tires are in front of theirs, they do not have the power to do that; you are the one who has control of the rudder.

I hope some of those tips are helpful to you. I also hope you can spend a lifetime behind the wheel without being in a situation as dangerous as the story you have shared with us.

Thank you; this information does have the potential to keep someone else safe on the roads someday, and that of course is what DriveSafeRideSafe is really all about!

Sincerely, Mike Pehl

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