Thursday, March 29, 2007

Drunk drivers on my way to work

A couple of days ago, I encountered three drunk drivers in three separate incidences.

It was about 0400 and the first one turned off N. Main onto Massey Tompkins on the wrong side of the road, right in front of me. I watched the long-haired fellow drive past me and he never sped up, or even looked my way.

The other two I came upon on SH146, headed for the Fred Hartman Bridge. I followed both of them after they crossed the bridge and when they turned onto 225, I was able to get on the feeder and get ahead of them safely.

I don't believe they were together, but one ended up following the other.
About 0700, the same morning, I finally settled down at work to check my email, look at Google News and get my day started. The drunk drivers kept coming to mind, so I posted what I had witnessed on Baytown Talks, the Baytown Suns online forum, to see what other Baytonians had experienced and to share my own experiences.

To my absolute surprise, I found that I, not the drunk drivers was the irresponsible party, because I hadn’t pulled over (at 0400 on basically deserted N. Main street) and phoned the police to report the first offender. My judgment was immediately suspect, as they may not have been drunk.

The person(s) may have actually been diabetic, sneezing heavily from hay fever, poor drivers and even, just plain idiot drivers. It was pointed out that police wouldn’t respond anyway, as they apparently are all asleep at the local donut shops.

I was advised to call the cops and then follow at a safe distance until they were apprehended.

I tried to explain my non-police call this way: “Well, I suppose they could of been just sleepy...all three of them, at 4 o'clock in the morning, especially the two doing 45 mph on 225 and in all fairness, the one going the wrong way on Massey Tompkins was probably just sleepy too. I know the guy in the middle lane that he passed thought the guy was drunk, because when I pulled up next to him, to take a left, the fellow was shaking his head in amazement.

The two sleepy guys on 225 doing 45 mph were so sleepy; they kept jerking the steering wheel trying to keep it in the lane. It was like watching synchronized sleepy driving”. Like famous politicians before a microphone, my attempt at humor only stirred my detractors to claim I was accused of “making assumptions about the condition of the driver and risking their and other lives by letting them to continue on driving in an erratic behavior”.

Now, I had become the prime offender. My crime of not calling the police was greater than the drunk drivers, because I was intentionally allowing a drunk driver to kill people.

Once again, I made an attempt to exonerate myself, but instead, made myself a fool.
“I considered "calling the cops", but did not see the license number of the dark SUV that went past me on Massey Tompkins and the light turned green and I drove off on N. Main. My cell phone was turned off and in my lunch box on the back seat.

By the time I would have pulled over, activated my phone and went through the rigmarole of getting the station officer, the character would be long gone.

Same-same on the other two, as on a State Highway, especially going over the Fred Hartman Bridge, police jurisdiction made it not worth the trouble”. My judgment was once again called in question, because even though it was 0400, I did not have my cell phone turned on and ready…” And why was your phone in the back seat turned off anyway? It does you no good if you would have been in an accident, had an emergency or been injured. What's the point of having one if you aren't going to use it?”

I was then instructed that I thought the whole episode was one big joke, because I retorted that I felt like I was the criminal.

“I find it a little unnerving how you think this is such a joke...but when (and God forbid) it happens to your family...I bet you'll think to yourself why didn't someone stop this idiot when they had the chance? I don't know how old your children are...but when your family is injured by a drunk driver, Bert may have seen them a few minutes before and just decided it wasn't worth it...too much trouble to dial 3 little numbers”.

I did however get some good advice and a number of people responded in my defense. A police officer told me straight up to call 911 the next time and “Let us do our job” and to him I say thank you. Encountering drunk drivers on the road at 0400 is rare and I did not know if this constituted a legitimate 911 call. That is why I initially said I would have to wait for the Station Officer, after the automated menu.

Drunk driving IS a serious offense and I do not want to see anyone hurt, or killed because someone felt they could safely drive after drinking too much. In the future, I will stop, power up my cell phone and call 911.


Anonymous said...

Thanks much for this dissertation. Like other things that NORMAL, God fearing people wouldn't dream of doing, the general public looks at it with a "no big deal" part of growing up, part of life kind of attitude. However, there are THOUSANDS of people every year that die and never grow up or continue to live their life because of an auto crash, being either the victim or the user of alcohol. It is a fact that DWI is still the single leading cause of deaths (41%) on our streets and highways here in the good ole USA. Let us all remember to "drink responsibly" always. Looks like you have already written your column for Sunday.

Buddy C.

Anonymous said...

Good story Bert.

Lemme tell ya' what happened to Gail and I some time back that made me decide I'd save my energy in calling 911 in the future.

We followed a man from Canton all the way to Freehome one day and he was all over the road ... and I mean ALL OVER THE ROAD.

We dropped our distance behind him expecting a head-on collision every time he met another car. He would cross the centerline, run out of the road on the right side, he would follow the yellow line when the road widened for a turning lane and drive in the turning lane the wrong way ... I mean it was unbeliveable. So we called 911. Very uncharacteristic of me btw.

The Sheriff's deputy stopped him close to the Freehome Store crossing. (at Simply Southern Resturant for us locals)

We parked at a distance and watched the cop talk to the driver for about 5 minutes and then to our amazement the cop got in his car and left and this old fart wobbles into the resturant.

Talk about a shock! So we followed the cop to the annex station right behind Simply Southern and asked him what gave?

He said the man was not drinking ... just old, so there was nothing he could do.

Folks that man couldn't have been more of a danger on the road if he had been dead stinking drunk, high on crack and wired on speed ... but they let him go.

My lesson was not to bother with 911 Sam

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. Don't know that I would have called 911 unless they were seiously in danger of causing an accident or were placing me in direct danger. Not a selfish thing -- just a judgment call. I would not want another (true emergency) to get delayed attention because an officer was sent out on a call that was not critical.
I have called 911 when, early in the morning - still dark - a small pick up truck was bouncing in and out of the highway lane and hitting the concrete wall... he was traveling at a high rate of speed and eventually (while I was on the phone with the 911 operator) came to a stop. This was just at the beginning of daily rush hour (maybe 6 a.m.) and he was posing what I preceived to be a serious threat to me and other motorists.
I think it is not a matter or being selfish or non-complacent... whether the person is drunk or not is not so much the issue, if they are driving erratic and posing a threat... they should be reported.
And... carrying a cell phone is not a law... if you have one... you can keep it anywhere you desire. It may frustrate your family if they are trying to reach you and cannot but that's a whole nother issue.
-Amy (just my two cents worth!)

Anonymous said...

Here in the Garden State there is a special number posted along the major roadways like the Parkway and Turnpike, *62, I think, which can be dialed from cell phones on the road to report suspicious or erratic driving. Location and car details given and then a patrol car gets on the case. Good thing to have but not a perfect solution.... you can report someone going way too fast or constantly darting between lanes with little room to spare but that doesn't guarantee a trooper of whoever can get to them and spot them in the act. I'm sure they also might get calls from someone complaining that someone might be going too slowly in the left lane and doubt they bother with that unless that driver is doing something like 30 miles below the speed limit.

While I haven't done it as of yet, if I were to see someone putting their or others lives in possible/probable danger I don't think I'd hesitate in dialing 911 or our special number. After hearing tapes of what some people dial 911 for around the country I'd feel perfectly fine. It's silly to call to say the line at the drive thru is going too slowly but justified in reporting a driver swerving all over the road.


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