Saturday, March 28, 2009

When Seconds Count

The red line is where the car turned around and was meeting oncoming traffic - the green line is where they were in the correct lane, but with me following. Doncha love my mad MSPaint skilz?

Thursday evening I was hurrying back to Garden to park the truck before the big winter storm hit. Normally, I would have stopped at the farm and driven over the next day, but I didn't want to get snowed in with an eighteen wheeler with my 4wd pickup in Garden. Much easier to get around in the pickup than the truck.

Just east of Garden US50/400 widens from a two lane to a divided four lane highway, with a fairly wide median. A couple miles from the city limits the median disappears, and it's not a divided four lane any more. Westbound, I had just hit the four lane when I saw the eastbound little silver car stop on the shoulder, seemingly hesitating. It then flipped a u-turn into the eastbound fast lane and headed west.

Wow! I thought they'd get to a crossover and drive across the median to get into the correct lanes, but I was wrong. They met several eastbound cars who were flashing their headlights. The eastbounders stayed in their right hand lane and left the fast lane to this idiot.

After I saw that the errant driver had no intention of correcting their mistake, I called 911. I told the dispatcher what I was seeing. I slowed down to keep pace with them to keep watch. The dispatcher seemed to not understand quite where we were, but I finally got through to her the location, and more importantly the fact that they were westbound in the eastbound lanes. She told me later in the conversation that I wasn't the first person to call in, but I was the only one willing to stay on the line. She wanted my name and number, and I told her who I drove for as well. I kept calling in landmarks we were passing - the entrance to the airport, the Irsik-Doll Feedyard, the Pole Line Road, and the Landfill road.

They must have met fifteen or twenty cars. Not too far from where the median ended they met a clot of vehicles - some in the passing lane. I guarantee you headlights were flashing, and the inhabitants of the passing lane eventually moved over to their slow lane.

This apparently jarred something in the driver of the little two door. They pulled over (there were two people in the car) on the left shoulder of the eastbound lane - right shoulder to them. I couldn't tell just what brand it was. At first, I thought it was a small Pontiac. I duly reported this to the dispatcher. I was hoping to see what they did when the median ran out - surely they'd cross over to the right lanes, so I stopped on the far right shoulder. After a minute or so, they started heading west again, so I eased off the shoulder and was working to catch them again.

When they got to the "split," they ran on in the wrong lane for a few hundred yards and finally moved to the far right. I hadn't caught them yet, and the dispatcher decided she'd taken enough of my time, so I hung up. I figured I'd get caught at the traffic lights and never see them again. She said she wasn't sure if a Kansas Highway Patrolman or a Sheriff's deputy would get out there first, but she had several on the way.

But, for once, the traffic lights worked in my favor, and I eased up directly behind them. I could see the tag number and the brand of the car - it was a Dodge Stratus - neat little spoiler on the rear decklid. For the life of me, it looked like it was a couple of young girls. The tag indicated they were from Hamilton county - Syracuse is the county seat. So, they weren't too far from home. I called 911 back and got the same dispatcher. I told her the tag number and that it said Hamilton county, plus the make and model of the car. She was still having trouble getting someone out there. There are two traffic lights between the "split" and the "bypass" where US50/400 and US83 meet - we hit them both. When they got to the bypass exit, they took it, seemingly hesitantly. I followed. There is another traffic light just after merging on, and it stopped us both. I was still on the phone. When we got to the K156 exit, I met a Garden City police car headed south - at this point we were both northbound. I mentioned this to the dispatcher, but apparently there was no communication with that agency. The Stratus exited - Wal Mart, Sam's Club, Home Depot, Applebee's and several other businesses are to the right, and to the left is the main east/west street through Garden. I couldn't tell which way they went, so we concluded our conversation and I went on.

The bypass curves back to the west, and there is a four way stop where US83 turns to the north, and US50/400 goes on west. I eased through the four way and had my speed built up when I heard someone talking on the CB about a Highway Patrolman hauling ass eastbound out by the Irsik-Doll Feedyard.

I was less than impressed - chasing after that car well after it had already passed through, and making matters worse by hauling ass in the wrong direction. I had kept the dispatcher updated with the actual location of the offenders in real time, and it didn't seem to matter. Now, I realize that this is a rural area, and LEOs are usually scattered to the four winds, perhaps many miles away. However, the whole experience struck me as pretty much disorganized.

One of the more clever toss away lines that gunnies like to quote supporting weapons usage and availibility for self defense is "When seconds count, the police are only minutes away."

It ain't just self defense. If this situation had taken a turn for the worse, the cops would have been there in time to handle traffic control waiting for the ambulances to arrive. Any triage would have involved me and any others who might have stopped. Thank G_d it didn't happen.


Earl said...

good job!

RT said...

WOW! What Earl said.

Unknown said...

This reminds me of the commercial I hear on the truckers channel on sirius, "One set of headlights coming toward you might be a fluke, BUT TEN? YOUR IN THE WRONG LANE!"

An old woman did that on I 57 in Illinois after stopping in the southbound rest area between the Salem and Centralia exits. She came out of the rest area and turned left heading north in the southbound lanes. This one didn't turn out so well as she had a head on with someone and was killed.