We just finished an 1,800-mile, round-trip journey to Florida. We traveled in three vehicles, with most of our time spent on I-95 and I-4. Driving was an experience, though the weather was nice and we experienced no mechanical issues. We saw accidents, a brush fire, traffic backups, road construction, lots of tractor trailers, cars pulled for speeding, and drivers who thought that they owned the road. I am thankful that we arrived home on Saturday and did not have to deal with the heavy traffic that Memorial Day Monday brings. With summer approaching, I wanted to talk about the travel aspect.
The brush fire that I just mentioned contained a much bigger and tragic story. Concerning the brush fire, fire and forestry units had been on the scene for a while. The incident was on the downside of a hill, and there was no indication of a problem except brake lights ahead. No warnings were posted on the beginning of the hill to indicate what lie on the other side of the hill. My son, who was behind us, watched a tractor trailer go into the median to get stopped. He called the state police and told them that they needed to get someone out there before someone got killed. Firefighters in the roadway, had on no protective or reflective clothing and were walking in the roadway as though it were nothing. The rest of the story to this location was that a family of four had been killed instantly, two days prior. The family’s vehicle was stopped and a tractor trailer ran into them. Stopping on the interstate is dangerous, whatever the cause. Stopping on the side of the interstate should only occur if absolutely necessary and if you must stop, then you should get as far off the road as possible. I saw one vehicle pulled to the shoulder of the interstate, having a conversation with another person in a vehicle on a road that paralleled the interstate. His wife and children were standing by the car on the interstate. Many people have been hurt or killed while their vehicle is stopped on the shoulder of the interstate.
I saw one chain reaction accident that involved about 8 to 10 vehicles. More impressive than that was a tactic used by South Carolina police officers to apprehend speeders. A police officer was positioned on an overpass with radar. He obviously radioed to awaiting officers those who were speeding. We passed a half dozen vehicles pulled in a quarter-mile stretch of interstate. This is a vacation expense that I do not believe that any of us prepare for. Even with the police presence, there were still those that were traveling in excess of 80 mph, in cars and on motorcycles.
Your chance of having an accident on a limited access road is high, although there is a high percentage of fatal accidents that happen within two miles of a person’s home. My focus here is on the limited access roadways. There are many things that can happen. Speeds are higher and roads are full of traffic at multiple times during the day. It is important that drivers stay alert always.
Improperly secured loads, objects in the roadway, and retreads that have come off trucks are issues that drivers may face during the day or night. Again, it is important to be alert. Severe weather conditions add to the hazards. When traffic is heavy and conditions are poor, you need to give yourself more room between vehicles, giving you a bit more time to react. The bottom line to all of this is to ensure that your vehicle is ready for the trip and then drive defensively as if your family’s lives depend upon it.