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Against all odds

  1. Sep 9, 2012 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    About twenty-five years ago I was driving North on the Long Beach freeway heading into Los Angeles. It was dark and I was in the left-most lane and following a curve to the left, when suddenly I saw headlights coming right at me in my lane! I was pretty sure the lane next to me was clear, though it didn't really matter, so I yanked the wheel and quickly changed lanes only to see a high-end sports car blow by at an incredible speed. I probably missed a head-on collision by half a second or less. The entire event probably took place in a little over a second. I reacted almost instantly, as soon as I saw the lights, and then it was over.

    Last week I was driving into Portland, late at night, in the left-most lane of the I-5, and was rounding a curve to the left when suddenly I saw a headlight coming at me in my lane... I thought. Instantly I was taken back to the night in Long Beach. Because of that I hesitated for a moment while flurry of thoughts filled my head. NO, this must be an illusion. It must really be on the other side of the median and just appears to be coming at me. This can't be happening again. But damned if that doesn't look like a headlight coming right at me! Again, I yanked the wheel to the right and barely avoided a head-on collision with a motorcycle that was driving the wrong direction in my lane. Luckily he was traveling much slower than the sports car was so many years ago or the hesitation would have meant disaster. In this case I probably had a couple of seconds to react.

    It's like deja vu all over again!
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 9, 2012 #2

    Borek

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    Moral of the story: don't drive in the left most lane when there is a free lane to the right :tongue2:
     
  4. Sep 9, 2012 #3

    Ivan Seeking

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    That thought had occurred to me! :biggrin: I would like to know what these people are doing. I have no idea why anyone would do this. The first time I was thinking maybe, stolen vehicle, or some rich guy on drugs playing chicken... It doesn't make any sense, and now it's happened twice! God must be gunning for me but has bad aim.
     
  5. Sep 9, 2012 #4
    Had that happen to me once, but it wasn't on a highway, luckily. It was on a "main" state street, though, with a speed limit of 45. The two directions of travel was separated by a grassy median. Some car made a turn into the lanes heading the wrong direction and was coming straight for me, and seemed to be speeding up. I had to swerve from the left lane into the grass to avoid a head-on collision. The person swerved across the lanes and into a driveway on the right side of the road. Was terrifying.
     
  6. Sep 9, 2012 #5
    It appears most people suggest going to right of the lane. Surviving steering into the left lane seems quite lucky in itself.
     
  7. Sep 9, 2012 #6

    BobG

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    It's pretty rare when compared to the huge amount of traffic on highways, but it does happen regularly.

    There's about 350 fatalities a year caused by people driving the wrong way on highways (compared to the 40,000+ deaths per year in all traffic accidents). That's less than 1%, but it's a lot more likely to happen at night than during the daytime (reduced visibility, higher likelihood of alcohol, etc).

    http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/publicroads/02sep/06.cfm

    I've encountered this once (except as the passenger in the car instead of the driver). In our case, it was a sunny morning, but the extenuating circumstances were highway construction in the general area (not actually where we encountered the driver). The highway was slowly being converted from a two-lane two-way highway to a divided four-lane highway. We were on a portion of the newer divided highway and the driver coming the other way somehow missed the transition from two-lane two-way to divided highway.

    We got into the right lane and he slid off the road into the snow but was unharmed. This was in New Mexico and evidently one can go quite a ways down the highway early on a Sunday morning before encountering any oncoming traffic as the split was a surprisingly long distance down the road (nearly 20 miles).
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2012
  8. Sep 9, 2012 #7
    When I was driving, my wife called me to be careful because the news reported there was some idiot driving the wrong way on the interstate. I said One? There's hundreds of them.
     
  9. Sep 9, 2012 #8

    BobG

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    She called you on your cell phone while you were driving to tell you to be careful?! Doesn't she know talking on cell phones while driving is dangerous?!
     
  10. Sep 9, 2012 #9

    Astronuc

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    I've seen this a few times when a motorist unfamiliar with the roads turns the wrong direction on a one way street. The amazing part is when they continue toward the traffic, all which is facing them.

    In a civics class, 40+ years ago, I remember a movie about a court case in which the defendant had killed someone because he was drunk and drove on the wrong side of the freeway into a head-on collision. The lawyer was arguing that he was a really good guy and didn't mean it - i.e., it was an accident. Besides, he had a family to support. Nevermind the guy who was killed - which was the point of the criminal case.
     
  11. Sep 9, 2012 #10

    OmCheeto

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    Me too!

    I was downtown, and made a right hand turn onto a single lane one way street and had to come to an immediate stop as there were a pair of policemen on their vehicles parked facing the wrong direction in the middle of the street!

    One of them told me I took the corner too quickly.

    I politely acknowledged that they were correct, although I disagreed with their opinion.

    I also refrained from mentioning that officers of the law should know better than to drive the wrong way down a one way street. Except in emergencies of course, which there did not appear to be at that moment.

    :grumpy:

    .
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    2008-01-06_135328.jpg

    :tongue2:
     
  12. Sep 9, 2012 #11
    I was driving home at 2:00am on a straight lonely 2 lane country road when I saw headlights coming towards me. The other car was in their lane so I wasn't worried, but just before passing each other two deer leaped across the road from opposite sides right between us. It was like viewing some kind of bizarre mirror reflection with one deer each poised in midair in front of our respective windshields and illuminated by the other car's headlights. There were ditches on both sides of the road and no time to slow down. Both of us just had to hope the deer had timed it right and, fortunately, they had but only with milliseconds to spare.
     
  13. Sep 9, 2012 #12

    fluidistic

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    :rofl:
     
  14. Sep 9, 2012 #13

    Janus

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    I've run across A driver traveling the wrong way on the freeway once. Luckily I saw him coming from a good distance away and it was three lanes wide. He was on the inside lane, so I slid all the way over the outside lane, slowed down, and watched him like a hawk until we passed each other.

    The freakiest moment I've ever had in a car was when I wasn't driving, Two friends and I were making a late night trip back home. One friend was driving and the other had fallen asleep in the back seat.

    We had been traveling in silence for quite a while, when I asked the driver something. He didn't respond, so I asked a little louder. He started a bit, Looked around and asked "Where are we?". I told him that we were about to enter Corvallis. He got this scared look on his face and said, " I don't remember anything since we left Monroe."

    For the last ~30 miles I had been the only one fully awake in the car!
     
  15. Sep 9, 2012 #14

    Ivan Seeking

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    I wonder if drunk drivers that do this instinctively steer to the right when they realize something is wrong. So they end up in the inside lane.
     
  16. Sep 9, 2012 #15

    Ivan Seeking

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    Woohoo! Would have made a heck of a photo. :biggrin:

    Interesting information, BobG. Perhaps this wasn't as unlikely to happen as it seemed.
     
  17. Sep 9, 2012 #16
    It was a pretty picture. They were both full grown with a nice set of antlers.

    I hear the Australians were among the first to invent those huge pipe bumpers because the kangaroos like to race their cars and sometimes zig when they should zag. I bet they've got some interesting stories to tell too.
     
  18. Sep 10, 2012 #17
    I just got back from a coffeehouse and they tell me this same thing happened in front of it tonight. There are two lanes on each side separated by a median, and a car went by going the wrong direction for its side of the median. The neighborhood is full of clubs and bars, so I suspect a drunk driver.
     
  19. Sep 13, 2012 #18

    Ivan Seeking

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    I was thinking about this while driving today and remembered how I got in the habbit of driving in the inside lane. Beyond the fact that I always live life in the fast lane, :biggrin:, there are at least two safety issues. For one, being that there is no traffic to the left, there is only half the chance of someone making a bad move and involving you in an accident. You also generally have an escape route along the shoulder if there is a panic situation. You are also as far removed from merging traffic as possible, so maybe three reasons to stay left.

    When I was in my early 20s and working on mobile CAT scanners, one of the hats I wore was as the trainer for [then] California, Class 2 vehicles, meaning heavy busses. I put together a driving training program by working with a retired insurance investigator who clued me in on various tips to avoid accidents. I am almost positive that he is the one who first suggested to me that the inside lane is generally the safest.
     
  20. Mar 18, 2013 #19

    Janus

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    I just had an encounter this morning. Heading East bound on the freeway I met semi with trailer coming Westbound on the inside lane on my side of the divider. It took a while to register that he was on my side of the freeway because the opposing lanes of traffic are only separated by a short concrete barrier. Luckily, I was in another lane and we passed each other without incident. Shortly after I saw blue flashing lights in pursuit in the West bound lanes.

    Later I found out that a few minutes later, someone else was not as fortunate. He collided with another car. Amazingly, the driver of the car did not suffer any life threatening injuries. From the pictures it looks likes the collision took most of the passenger side of her car.
     
  21. Mar 18, 2013 #20

    lisab

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    Wow, wow, wow - that must have been terrifying! So glad you're still among us :smile:!
     
  22. Mar 18, 2013 #21

    Ivan Seeking

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    Wow! Did you ever find out why he was going the wrong direction?
     
  23. Mar 19, 2013 #22

    Janus

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    According to the police, he was intoxicated.

    The crash threw debris onto lanes of both sides of the freeway; a police cruiser was even damaged enough by flying debris that it had to be towed from the scene.

    Here's the car he collided with:

    http://media.oregonlive.com/commuting/photo/12442335-large.jpg [Broken]

    I still find it amazing that the driver of this car was only treated and released from the hospital.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  24. Mar 19, 2013 #23

    jim hardy

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    Anecdote, i hope it's not boring:


    Such frightening near misses and coincidences do make one ponder "what's out there".

    Once upon a time I was in an airliner en route from Phoenix to Atlanta, a window seat in first row of coach, left side. It was early morning and most passengers were asleep with window shades down, exceptions being myself and a pretty lady in a red dress also in front row but right side of plane.
    She was reading a book so her window was open for light. Her appearance was exquisite like a Tissot painting.

    My windowshade was open also because I enjoy the scenery from 32000 feet where earth's curvature is just becoming discernable.

    Out her window I spotted a speck on the horizon and for a few seconds it stayed centered.
    I know enough basics of navigation to know a constant bearing means paths will cross, so I shifted my gaze out my window .
    Airliners fly by FAA rules at assigned altitudes. They maintain 1000 feet vertical separation or a mile horizontal .
    So I thought I might catch a glimpse of another liner hurtling by within a mile at what, 450sqrt(2) mph? That's 933 feet per second !

    As soon as my eyes focused I saw four images in rapid succession, all I remember is these four static pictures frozen in my mind:

    1. The front half of a huge black airplane completely filled my window.

    2. The back half of a huge black airplane completely filled my window. Its tail had the distinctive forward pointing antenna of Boeing 707/KC135. The windows were painted over.

    3. Rear view of the huge airplane - wingtip to wingtip was wider than my window but it shrank incredibly fast like in a Spielberg movie special effect.
    I was looking right up four smoke trails and felt a "rumble" like driving across railroad tracks. The smoke trails converged as it shrank.

    4. As the big airplane hurtled away it of course moved behind us.
    I watched for a few more seconds as it became a tiny speck again, and the adrenalin rushed into my body.

    I looked around the airplane - several passengers stirred a bit as if they were aware of the rumble but did not wake up..
    The pretty lady in the red dress put down her book and looked around the plane..she felt it too.
    I asked her if she'd seen "that airplane go by", She said "no" then returned to her book.

    I was left alone with my thoughts so rehearsed in my mind what would I do if the front of the airplane had been ripped off.

    When deplaning in Atlanta I waited to be last one off. The flight crew was at cockpit door thanking us as they do for choosing their airline.
    I asked the captain "Did you see that KC135 go by back over Texas?
    He replied "No, I didn't notice anything."

    So I looked copilot in the eye, after all it had come from his side.
    I asked "Did you see it? I felt us cross its wake."
    He immediately moved his eyes to the ceiling and said in exaggerated tone of voice "I-saw-nothing", which I took as confirmation.
    The view from coach was terrifying enough - I cannot imagine what it looked like from his seat.

    About six months later I was sitting in an airport waiting room and picked up a pilot's magazine, just flipped it to a random page.
    That page just happened to be an article saying military had just agreed to abide by FAA rules when in civilian airspace which goes to 40,000 feet.
    We had been at 32,000 so had that KC135 been where it belonged we'd have missed by a thousand feet not ten feet.

    It was not the near miss that makes me pensive so much as the coincidence of me picking up that magazine and flipping to that particular page.

    There must've been somebody on our plane the Lord values a lot. Probably that pretty lady with the book. Or maybe it was the guys flying the 135.

    Sorry if I bored you. But i'm scared to this day by the memory.

    old jim
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2013
  25. Mar 19, 2013 #24

    BobG

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    Seat belts, air bags, and good crumple zones are priceless!

    Yeah, it means you pay a lot for even minor fender benders, but it's worth the money if you're in a higher speed collision.

    Just a couple weeks ago we had one of the metro buses in Denver somehow miss the HOV lane and wind up driving the wrong way on the expressway. No collision, as the driver stopped once he realized his error. He was still sitting pointing the wrong way in the fast lane, but at least he was a little easier to miss while stationary. The bus company's explanation was "he's new".
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  26. Mar 20, 2013 #25

    lisab

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    Boring? No way. More like, terrifying :surprised!
     
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