By Tony, Warminster
Have you ever been driving behind someone moving slower than you would like. You think if you get up close behind them maybe they will get the message and go faster. Well, let me tell you the only thing that will go faster is your own heart rate.
Many years ago we lived in NJ along the shore area but my job was in PA. It was about a 2 hour commute one way. One morning in mid July, I was heading to work following my normal routine. I had made my way across the state of NJ and was hitting the PA Turnpike around 7am. I was on the Turnpike for a few minutes when I noticed traffic starting to slow up ahead and then we came to a total stop. I waited in my car like everyone else, engine running. 5 minutes … 10 minutes and we hadn’t moved an inch. After 20 minutes people started to shut off their engines and get out of their cars and form into small groups. I did the same and hooked up with a small group near me. You could tell it was going to be one of those hot July days as the temperature was already up in the high 70’s and it was still early.
This was in the era when there was no such thing as a cell phone. We also didn’t have people sitting in offices looking at traffic cameras to report on traffic. Back then we had helicopters. Pilots would fly over the main arteries of Philadelphia and then report back to their radio station. Now 30 minutes into the standstill and that’s when we heard them. The chop-chop sound of the blades coming from behind us. I looked up and could see, WCAU, KYW, etc. as the choppers made their way past us to a point up ahead where they started to circle like vultures. People started to leave their cars and make their way up to the accident scene. I eventually decided to do the same. About a mile up the road I could see what had happened.
A tractor/trailer from the east bound lanes had somehow jumped the divider and plowed into the west bound traffic. I’m sure you’ve heard the term war zone. That’s what this looked like. Cars were strewn everywhere. Some right side up, others upside down, others on their sides, broken glass across the whole road way, smoke billowing from some cars. I walked over to the right shoulder and looked down the embankment. I saw a car down there on its roof, tires pointing to the sky. The car had been compressed to about half its normal height. I spotted a hand and a foot sticking out of a window. It was obvious that guy didn’t make it. That was enough for me. I turned around and went back to my car and waited.
I got to work around 3pm that day. The first thing I did was call my wife to let her know I was OK. Driving home that night I started to reflect on the day’s events. That’s when it came to me. I was about a mile behind that accident. That sounds like a pretty good distance until I realized that on a road like that where cars are typically moving along at 60-70 mph that distance is covered in about 1 minute. That was the difference between life and death for me on that day. One minute. If I had been one minute ahead of myself I could have been right in the middle of it. If I hadn’t gotten stuck behind that lethargic, slow-as-molasses garbage truck earlier that morning…
These days whenever I’m out driving and I get stuck behind someone who is not moving as fast as I would like and I start to feel myself getting annoyed, irritated, upset, I force myself to stop that train of thought.
I know that stuff is not going to help anything. Instead I try looking at it from a different perspective. I say to myself this guy could be saving your life today.