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Car Insurance

A Blog About Driving and Car Insurance in the USA

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Dual of Wills At A Highway Offramp

I was on my way to pick up my daughter from school. I had just started to make my way onto a single-lane offramp when I noticed a small, sporty vehicle in my rear-view mirror that was closing in on my car really fast. I drive a large sedan, so I certainly wasn't physically intimidated by the fast-approaching car. But I've learned to be a defensive driver over the years, so any situation that has the potential of ending in a car accident causes me to go into alert mode.

I didn't slow down or move to the side, but my gaze was locked onto the car, since I wanted to be prepared for any dangerously erratic moves by the driver. I wasn't doing anything wrong, so adjusting my driving would have been the wrong move.

To my surprise, the approaching car came right up to my bumper, then tried to squeeze past me on the right side, even though the lane had already narrowed to the point that only one car could realistically maneuver safely in the lane. I glanced to my right to see if I could catch a glimpse of the driver, but all the windows had dark tinting. I came to the conclusion that I was most likely dealing with a young, brazen and possibly drunk driver (the driver didn't even have his lights on, and it was way past dusk.)

Of course, I still had done nothing wrong, but at this point, I concluded that defensive driving -- i.e. letting the nutcase pass -- was the best way to handle this situation. So I applied my brakes to let the idiot pass (I'll refer to the crazy driver as Mad Max from this point forward), and, to my utter astonishment, Mad Max applied his brakes as well, slowing his car and matching my car's pace of deceleration. The next thing I knew, we had both braked to a complete stop. He didn't roll down his window, or honk, or anything. He just sat there, as if waiting for me to make my move.

At this point, I concluded that Mad Max realized how silly he was behaving, and tried to make right by not actually passing me.

But then an alternative explanation popped into my head: maybe Mad Max was in fact an insurance scammer who was trying to stage an accident. I'm familiar with some of the scams out there, like the guy who waves you out of a parking space then hits your car, or the scam where a car full of people swooshes in front of you on the highway, at which point the driver brakes hard, causing you to bash his rear, giving the driver and his/her passengers lots of fake yet expensive injuries.

Was Mad Max's strange behavior the preliminary steps of an insurance scam I wasn't familiar with? Or maybe it was a brand new scam, and I was to be it's first victim.

I really wasn't interested in sticking around to find out why Mr. Max was driving like a jackass, so I stepped on the pedal and quickly made my way around the tight curve of the exit ramp.

At the end of this particular exit ramp, one has to merge onto a three-lane boulevard. I merged, then crossed over to the center lane, at which point I stopped at a traffic light. About two seconds later, Max pulled up next to me and, after coming to a screeching stop, started to race his engine in a way that made it clear that he was interested in a quick and dirty drag race.

So, in the end, all this fool wanted was a good old-fashioned drag race. Ha! I guess some kids see the word "turbo" on the back of a car and make certain assumptions. I was surprised that my salt n' pepper hair and extra large baby seat in the back wasn't enough to sour Max's enthusiasm.

When the traffic light turned green, Max, as expected, burned some rubber and launched his car to the next traffic light -- which was red, and was only about 20 feet away. I drove at a snail's pace to the next light where Max was waiting, and he continued to challenge me by revving his engine. I stopped my car so that my front bumper aligned with his car's midsection, a clear sign that I had no interest in dancing, I thought. But this tactic wasn't necessary in the end, because another small, tricked-out sports car pulled up on the other side of Max, and, when the light turned green, the two raced down the boulevard until they disappeared from view.

One day, Max will learn just how costly bad driving can be, and he'll recall the stunts he used to pull with some embarrassment. I sincerely hope the inevitable accident that teaches him to drive sensibly is a minor fender bender, and not a 3-car pileup, or worse.

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