There’s No Excuse for Aggressive Driving

Jul 5th, 2013 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

My daughter was driving on the Marquam Bridge in Portland recently, moving slowly in traffic, and a semi truck and trailer came into her lane and knocked her into the next lane over. Thankfully, she wasn’t hurt. The spot is a notoriously dangerous section of freeway where many vehicles transition from I-5 to the I-84 on-ramp, or from I-405 to I-5. It reminds me of a kid setting up a Hot Wheels racetrack so the cars randomly collide. Also, traffic is often slow or stopped so you see a lot of people accelerating to get ahead of the car next to them so that they can change lanes, and then they slam on the brakes to keep from hitting the traffic stopped at the far end of the bridge.

No other vehicles were involved and my daughter had the presence of mind to pull off the next exit at the end of the bridge, but the semi truck kept going. It never stopped. The police informed us later that several motorists called to report the truck, and some of them recorded the license plate number so hopefully the driver will pay the price for his transgression (I am extremely thankful to all of those people who called). Unreal. Hit-and-runs happen, but rarely with a commercial vehicle. I have to wonder if he even realized what he did.

Last month I was on my way to work and passed a semi truck and trailer. Later he passed me and I noticed that he was following the car in front of him very closely. We were on 99E, a state highway — with many signals — that goes through towns every few miles. I was behind the truck for about 15 miles. The driver drove aggressively the whole time. At one point I dialed the number on the back of the trailer to report him and the way it was answered made me think that the number went to the driver’s cell phone, so I hung up. I wish now that I had followed through. Even if it was the actual driver who answered, I wish now that I had pointed out to him how dangerous his behavior was. There is no excuse for aggressive driving — from anyone. I’ve driven aggressively; I’ve done it in a tow truck and I can honestly say I didn’t gain from the practice. Aggressive driving in a commercial vehicle is particularly egregious, and in a large commercial vehicle, it’s criminal. Really. My daughter’s life was at stake. There’s nothing worth that.

The truck that I followed that day pulled off at set of scales and I couldn’t help but think that it was comical that I had been leisurely following him at a distance while he tailgated some poor motorist, and here we were at the same place at the same time. It wasn’t really comical though. The motorist he was following probably had experienced actual fear. What gave that driver the right to do that? Anyone who exhibits that type of behavior should have their driving privileges revoked.

The really scary part is we don’t know why he drove that way, just like we don’t know why the driver who hit my daughter kept going. Was it blatant disregard for the safety of others? Was it gross incompetence? Was it an altered state? That type of judgment certainly seems to indicate impairment.

If you are a surgeon, or even an anesthesiologist, the life of your patient is in your hands. That’s one reason why you train for so long and work under the supervision of others with more experience for so long. Mistakes are very costly. You also know that you bear personal responsibility for your actions. Would we tolerate a surgeon aggressively rushing through a procedure to make more money? Or rushing because he or she had something else to do? Or because he or she was impaired? Or simply because he or she was a jerk? No, we would not. If you are in a motor vehicle, the lives of others are in your hands. We should drive as if we were cradling an easily-detonated explosive in our hands, with extreme focus, humility and great care. We should not tolerate dangerous behavior from other motorists. What can we do? We can report them. We can snap a photo of their license plate number (at the next traffic stop) and post it on Facebook with a description of the car and the driver. If it’s a commercial vehicle, we can report the driver to his or her employer and start a social media campaign against the company pending their action on the issue. Be creative.

Have a safe and profitable week.

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