Stay on the alert, July 25, 2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 29, 2005

It's important when driving to focus on the task at hand. Regardless of how good a driver you may be, we're all exposed to other idiots on the road, people over whom we have no control.

Mid-afternoon Friday I had to go to the Chesapeake Square area on business. I was heading east on Portsmouth Boulevard behind one of those massive pickup trucks like a 350 or 3500, the one's with two rear wheels on each side.

Directly in front of the mall, we were approaching an intersection. The light had turned red and I started breaking about a hundred yards away. I couldn't help but notice the truck in front of me did not hit is breaks, which I thought was interesting. My wife's like that. She doesn't break lightly and just waits until she's right up on a light and slams them on. We change the brakes on her car about once a year.

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As we got closer to the light, it was obvious something was wrong. A Chevrolet Envoy SUV was pulling out of the mall and appeared to be trying to go straight across the intersection. The nose of the Envoy entered our lane and the pick up truck slammed into it. The impact was solid.

The Envoy's right side front end was smashed in to about half its width. It literally came off the ground and spun around more than 180 degrees the road.

I sat there at the light in a little bit of shock. I saw two girls get out of their car and rush toward the Envoy, so I pulled off the road and went to.

Inside was a woman and three children, all of whom were under 8 years old, I would guess.

There was a lot of screaming going on. The mother got out of the driver's side door and tried to get to the back to her children. She collapsed in the road and might have had a broken leg. I helped her up and held her as we walked to the roadside. The two other women took care of the children.

Mercifully, there was no blood, but all the Envoy occupants were badly shaken up. A young soldier called an ambulance and we waited with them by the side of the road until it arrived.

The driver of the pickup truck drove about 50 yards past the accident scene and pulled over into the median. He walked back toward the scene, sat in the grass and waited.

The event made me think about how dangerous driving is. While it's doubtful the driver of the Envoy could have done anything to avoid the accident, it just shows how aware a driver has to be at all times. Even though you have a green light, it doesn't mean other drivers are going to respect your privileges. You have to be on guard at all times.

What I'm referring to, of course, is the use of cell phones by people while driving a car. There's no way someone can talk on the phone and be aware of everything they need to be aware of. I'm guilty of it, too, but after seeing that wreck on Friday, I'm going to at least make an effort to turn mine off. There are a lot of idiots out there on the road and you need to try to be on alert at all times.