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School let out Thursday, and we left town Friday.
My family kicked off the summer with a road trip to Galveston last weekend. Although we were making the trek to attend a wedding, we were looking forward to not only seeing family, but also enjoying a brief coastal getaway.
We hit Interstate 45 Friday morning singing with the radio and anticipating a delicious seafood dinner by the bay. Suddenly, traffic slowed to a crawl. With no construction signs and only five or six cars in front of us, it was not immediately obvious what caused the back-up. There was no wreck on the horizon and no sign of emergency vehicles. We were traveling in the right-hand lane, and there were probably five or six cars running next to us in the left lane.
In a matter of seconds, we had slowed from 70 to between 20 and 30. After a couple of cars in front of us had inched their way into the left-hand lane and sped away, we could see a red Mustang weaving and at times almost stopping in our lane. We got a better look every time it seemed to absentmindedly cross the center line into the left lane.
Wondering what was going on, we attempted to keep our distance.
Did he blow a tire? Was he feeling ill? A new driver, perhaps?
All of these seemed like plausible explanations because it was only 10 a.m.
A steady stream of cars in the left lane attempted to pass the Mustang, but it was like trying to dodge a bouncy ball. There was no way to know where he would swerve next.
By this time it was obvious he was drunk or otherwise intoxicated.
We stayed a safe distance behind him, and at this point there were two vehicles between us. Several times we cringed as he narrowly missed cars in the lane next to us, and we all gasped when he eventually hit a box truck.
It didn’t stop him, though. The minor impact didn’t seem to hurt the truck, and even though it tore up the front end of the Mustang, the driver kept going. At this point pieces of his car were falling onto the pavement.
We noted them as we passed.
A front headlight.
Pieces of his left, front tire.
Part of the bumper.
The rest of his left, front tire.
The truck he hit exited but never stopped. The Mustang, now driving on at least one rim, somehow managed to find the exit ramp while still weaving uncontrollably.
We took this opportunity to speed by in case he came back on the Interstate. As we passed, he was drinking at that very moment. It was infuriating.
His car wandered down the on-ramp and onto the service road. I kept looking back, and it appeared his car came to a stop in the center of the service road. I was about to call 911 when several cars essentially surrounded his vehicle and presumably called the police. Looking back, I probably should have also called, just to be certain.
I couldn’t believe what my family had just witnessed. We’ve all seen drivers speeding or weaving on the road that we suspected of being drunk, but I had never seen anyone so blatantly breaking the law.
A fun trip suddenly took a serious turn. But I guess that’s how it happens.
It was a lesson for my 10- and 8-year-old: This is what a drunk driver looks like. This is why it’s not acceptable.
Fortunately, he was not driving any faster or the consequences could have been much worse. Although the phrase “don’t drink and drive” may have become clich or mundane in the minds of some, it was brought to life for us this weekend.
If you are impaired, please do not get behind the wheel. Any amount of alcohol or drugs in your system can slow your reaction time whether you’re legally drunk or not. Despite what popular culture might lead you to believe, there are not levels of impairment.
It’s kind of like being pregnant – either you are or you aren’t. There’s no in-between.
And when it comes to drinking and driving, there’s no reason to endanger your life or the lives of others.
Kristen Tribe is news editor of the Wise County Messenger.