Monday, November 08, 2010

Can't leave well enough alone? You must be a blogger.

Did your mom or grandmother ever say, "You can't leave well enough alone?"

Funny expression. When it something "well enough" and why should you leave it alone? Shouldn't it be "well done" or just finished?

Many bloggers I know can't leave well enough alone. Maybe that's what drew them to blogs in the first place. Unlimited space where you can ignore well enough into eternity.

Anyway, some of you followed my serial tale of the Oct. 22 near-miss crash with a drunk driver on I-25. I told the installments on Facebook as sat in my Ford on the way to Pueblo later than day.

I received an "unsafe lane change" ticket which I was going to pay but thought better of it. The young driver who almost killed us was busted for DUI -- drunk at 8:15 a.m. So I decided to write a letter to the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles and copies to various other agencies (see the end of the letter).

Here's the letter:
Oct. 26, 2010

Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles
Department A
Denver, CO 80243

To Whom It May Concern:

I am not a perfect driver.

But I am a pretty good one.

I drive thousands of on-the-job miles around Wyoming each year. That’s in all kinds of weather. I put thousands of personal miles on my own car each year traveling back and forth between Cheyenne and Fort Collins and Denver, which is my home town.

No tickets. No wrecks. Maybe a few close calls, but that’s to be expected in the Rocky Mountain states, where driving conditions can change in the blink of an eye.

That’s how accidents happen – in the blink of an eye. I may have blinked on Friday morning, Oct. 22, near the Harmony Road interchange on I-25 in Larimer County. I looked in my side view mirror, clicked my turn signal, and then eased into the left lane. I was avoiding the heavy morning traffic merging on to the highway.

Next thing I know, I saw a green Subaru on my left. I pulled back to the right lane, slowed and watched as the Subaru kicked up a cloud of dust from the median and then crossed right in front of me and off to the right. In the chaos, I slowed and pulled off to the right shoulder about 100 yards down the road. I got out of the car and made my way back to the Subaru. It was upright facing the wire fence. The car had a few dings and the tries were flat. The driver was out of the car and seemed to be O.K. I apologized, certain that I had caused the accident. The driver was young, maybe mid-20s, with a sparse beard. He was dressed in black. His hands shook from the shock, or at least that’s what I thought at the time.

Thirty minutes later, he wore handcuffs in the back of a Colorado State Patrol car. He was on his way to jail for driving while impaired.

And I got a ticket for unsafe lane change. Or, as the ticket read: “Changed lanes when unsafe.”

Funny how your perception can change almost instantaneously. One moment I’m feeling terrible because I may have made a bad move that led to the wreck of another person’s car. The next minute I’m thinking, “We could all be dead.” “All” meaning my wife of 28 years, my 17-year-old daughter and me. And the driver of the Subaru who was drunk at 8:15 on a Friday morning.

When I was merging left on the highway, I didn’t see the driver of the Subaru because he wasn’t there. My guess is that he was behind me and tried to speed around me on his way to work, which is where he said he was going. My statement to the police said that “I didn’t see the Subaru.” I meant that literally. When he looked in my side view mirror, the Subaru wasn’t there. And then, in the blink on an eye, he was there and spinning out of control in his 4WD Subaru Outback. That’s one safe car, known for its reliability and safety. That the driver emerged unhurt speaks to that.

But you can give an impaired driver the world’s best car and he or she can find ways to do unsafe and dangerous things in it.

I am contesting my ticket. I may end up paying it when I go to court in Ft. Collins on 1/14/11, and that’s something I can live with. But I want the record to show that the unsafe lane-changing driver was not me but the driver of the Subaru. He was unsafe when he got into his car that morning. He was unsafe speeding down the highway. My miscalculation resulted in his unsafe and unsound response that downed a highway light pole, wrecked his car, and could have resulted in death or injuries to my family and any number of other drivers on the road that morning.

I conclude by commending the Colorado State Patrol, the Larimer County Sheriff and the ambulance EMTs who were at the scene. Professionals all. One patrolman even jumped my car, dead on the side of the road from extended use of emergency blinkers. Thanks to him, we quickly resumed our trip to Pueblo. We were late, but intact.


Michael Shay

Cc: Colorado State Patrol
Larimer County Court
Farmers Insurance

1 comment:

Joshua N Wood said...

That's quite a harrowing tale, Michael. It is rather frightening how quickly the roads in the Rocky Mountain areas can become unsafe.
I would agree with you that the only reason your merging was "unsafe" was because of the inebriated driver that morning. It's frightening not only that he was driving drunk or that he was drunk that early in the morning, but that he was going to work drunk as well.
I commend your, compulsion shall I call it, to write to C-DOT to contest your ticket and to explain why.