Drunk Drivers Make Me Sad

I normally curse reckless drivers and hope they get what’s coming to them. Except for tonight. This driver was being far too reckless — and I was concerned for them.

A really nice silver car came zooming along in the carpool lane, engine furious, moving at least 35 miles per hour faster than anyone else on the bridge. The driver then cut in front of three cars in front of me and in the next lane over while changing into the rightmost lane. What really concerned me was how fast he was approaching the car ahead of him. Both cars disappeared around exit onto 14E towards Camas, WA — my exit also.

I followed them, lagging by about a minute. I was almost expecting an accident as I exited the I-5N to head east. I saw an intact tire towards the side of the road and I swerved to avoid it. I saw smoke. Then I saw glass. I braced to see the worst.

Ahead, a car had pulled over. It’s emergency blinkers flashed. Further ahead and opposite the tire, the silver car lay upside down without a tire on the front driver’s side and the back angled up towards the air.

As I passed the upside down car, I noticed the driver moving trying to get out. I drove about a hundred feet ahead and pulled over. Other cars were starting to pull over as well. I was walking up to the silver car with my cell phone in hand and 911 already keyed in. I saw the driver get out of the car. He said, “I’m alright.” He then proceeded to tell me that he had a few drinks and that he wanted to leave and asked if I would give him a ride a few exits toward the hospital. I said that I would, but really intended to call 911.

He turned around and went back to his car. As I turned to look at my car and dial, another car pulled over slightly ahead of me and behind my car. I heard a crash behind me and whipped around to see that another car had been hit by a truck right by the silver car’s tire. Two people got out of the Jeep that just pulled over and asked if I had dialed 911 as my finger had pushed the call button and I told them, “I’m calling right now”. I spoke with dispatch to tell them where this was happening — just north of the I-5 bridge on the off ramp to 14E. She told me that a team was on the way.

A guy wearing black came to have a look at the people involved in the accidents. This man was a Navy medic. He inspected the driver and thought he might have a concussion from the forehead and temple injuries. There was also a nurse who was doing an assessment on some of the people closer to the secondary accident.

An ambulance, fire truck, highway patrol officer and a local sheriff arrived just a few minutes afterward. The emergency crew responded to the secondary accident. The lady in the car that was hit in the rear was slowly extracted from the car and put into a stretcher and loaded into the ambulance. The silver car’s driver, suspected of intoxication and possibly marijuana (he was in possession of a pipe, which was laying in the open with his stuff), was being examined by the sheriff. The police took my information and starting taking notes on my recollection. I was cleared to leave.

I was tired. I walked back to my car. I got in, started it up, and drove home.

I thought, at one time, I could have been that reckless driver. If I hadn’t had passed out and fell down as I was leaving Rotture a month ago, I could have gotten into my car and drove off. I probably wouldn’t have driven so fast, but there’s no telling what I would have done that drunk. I basically passed out that night from alcohol. If had got into my car, drove off, then passed out — I would have been in really bad shape and others might have too.

I didn’t get a chance to touch my car that night, but I still ended up in an ambulance. I woke up at OHSU the next morning and took the bus back to downtown Portland and had breakfast at the Pearl Bakery. Then I walked to my car. I still felt terrible, and probably shouldn’t have driven my car that morning. I went to my Portland office, drank water, chatted with a friend online and passed out on the futon.

I now have a great respect for alcohol and how much of a poison it is. I still drink, but I’m now really responsible about it. I don’t want to injure other people. I also don’t want to injure myself. There’s enough to worry about without having drunkenness ruin your day. The next time I hear a story about a drunk driver, I’m probably going to cry. It’s so sad that it happens, especially when it’s so preventable.

2 thoughts on “Drunk Drivers Make Me Sad

  1. I’ve seen worse, and it makes me so angry that this nation basically encourages – at almost every inadvertent opportunity the chance to enable people to drive drink. Why do I say that? Because most places in the US aren’t Portland. They’re these massive sprawls of chaos, with bars miles away from homes. In Portland, there are options, there are real chances to be responsible. In places like New Orleans, Jacksonville, Memphis, Phoenix, and many other cities there is little opportunity to drink responsibly. It is a sad state.

    When I hear about someone doing what that person did here in the north west it makes me EXTRA angry because there is little excuse. I stopped owning a car 2 years ago, basically stopped driving any more than a mile or two a month then, and had cut back driving by at least 95% below the US Average well over 6 years ago. Ever since my life has improved dramatically.

    On that note, maybe my liver has suffered. TriMet (or now in Seattle, it’s Metro) gets me home safely after I’ve had a good solid few rounds. I like that freedom, I like the chance to not worry about me, killing someone else. One of the things that reminds me of this scenario was a rather horrible experience and it stays planted in my mind…

    I approached an intersection that approached an on ramp where someone, intoxicated, had stomped the gas into the floorboard to make the light – trying to get onto the Interstate. They’d hit the car (which was progressing under a green light now) square in the drivers side at about 50mph, almost killing the driver. Instead the driver of that car laid in the car dying, blood pooled around everywhere while some others around called the emergency crew. The drunk driver was however immediately punished by fate. They had been flung through the window, being severely cut and bones broken. That however was the easy part of this incident. The driver at that speed broke through the windshield and then flew forward making it over the car that was impacted in the side. There was a “dragons tail” of blood from there all the way to were this person had stopped flying forward. There sat their corpse. Absolutely horrible scene. Both innocent and guilty dead. The innocent suffering the most… as it took about an hour for them to die as others tried to save them.

    Horrible story, but to take note. Stay safe, stay of sound mind when driving. Don’t kill people, that’s not cool. Please don’t operate anything over 5 mph when intoxicated, hell, one shouldn’t even walk too fast when drunk! Find a good couch, relax, enjoy one’s altered reality. 🙂

    Glad you didn’t make it to a car Jillian. Sad to hear you had to take a trip with the ambulance! Maybe next time you’ll have an available couch. 😉


    1. Adron, thank you for leaving a comment. I said I was going to cry the next I came across a drunk driver story and I just did. That is an intense, sad story.

      You are very right about how the structure of peoples live’s and urban landscapes lends itself to drunk driving. If I could choose anything to change about city living in the US, it would be to structure city and town developments very differently (and entirely rebuild many). People should live and form communities near where they work and play. I’m sure the local economies would start thriving in addition to decreasing the likelihood of some inebriated person driving a long distance home and killing someone.

      Congratulations on being car free for so long! I’d love to make that move, but I find I travel too much on a regular basis. I will need to entirely change everything about my life to be able to do that. First step though is to buy a replacement bike (mine was stolen a year and a half ago). Second step move back to Portland (I recently started renting a place near a consulting gig in Vancouver, WA).

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