Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Are Prepared Drivers Paranoid?

By Dave Dargo

Some people believe that those of us who carry a gun are paranoid. There are even studies that purport carrying a gun leads to paranoia. The foundation for such beliefs, in my opinion, rests on the fallacy that guns don't belong in a civilized society. I believe that carrying a gun is no more than simple preparation for potential dangerous encounters; encounters that occur every day.

My wife and I often drive between Scottsdale, Arizona and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This drive covers approximately 1,500 miles of which 880 miles is Interstate Highway 10 through the great state of Texas. For much of the drive through Texas the speed limit is a very civilized 80 miles per hour.

Last Saturday, at about 9:30 P.M., we were driving near the half-way point across Texas (mile marker 460). We were driving 80 miles per hour and passing an 18-wheeler when we saw something in the road about 100 feet ahead of us. Now, we see a lot of debris in the road on these drives but we weren't expecting a round hay feeder cover.

These structures are approximately 6' x 6' x 8' and weigh about 250 pounds.

At 80 miles per hour one covers 117 feet in 1 second. This device was less than one second away. We, the truck driver and I, saw it that late because it was rust in color and couldn't be seen until fully illuminated by our joint headlights.

Even though I wasn't expecting this device in the road I was, nevertheless, prepared.

The feeder was standing on its end without about 2/3 in the right-hand lane and the other 1/3 in the left-lane, which was my lane.

I said, "Uh-Oh, this won't be good." That statement got my wife's attention and she looked up and said something completely different.

I realized the feeder couldn't be avoided, looked where I wanted my car to go, steered in that direction and hit the accelerator. I almost succeeded in avoiding being hit. The cab of the tractor-trailor hit the feeder and it caromed into the right-rear corner of my car.

We were very fortunate that the owner of the feeder returned and claimed responsibility. All-in-all we feel fortunate that if someone had to get hit by the feeder it was us as we drive a rather substantial SUV. We shuddered when we thought what would have happened to someone in a smaller, less substantial vehicle.

While waiting for the Sheriff's deputy to arrive the truck driver and I spoke at length about what happened. She couldn't have gone any farther right and I couldn't have gone any farther left because of steep drop-offs on both sides of the road.

The natural reaction when one sees an object in the road is to brake hard. If I had chosen that option then the damage would have been much greater and we would have hit it head-on rather than getting hit laterally at the rear of the vehicle. I knew from driving training and conditioning that accelerating is often a better resolution for these situations.

Because I attended Bob Bondurant's School of High Performance Driving many years ago was I paranoid of other drivers or was I simply preparing myself to be a better driver? Because I attended Gunsite Academy to am I paranoid or preparing myself to be better prepared in case of violent confrontation?

Is someone who teaches defensive driving skills a radical spreading dangerous ideas about mistrusting other drivers? Why am I, a defensive firearms instructor, labeled a radical for spreading dangerous ideas about predators in our society.

Being prepared is a good thing, it's the Boy Scout motto.

Just as we need to be prepared for the unexpected road detritus we also need to be prepared for the unexpected human detritus. Just as it's not paranoia to be prepared for the road hazard it's not paranoia to be prepared for the predator hazard.

I guess I could have ignored preparation and just driven headlong into the hay feeder. Perhaps I could have then told the insurance company that preparing to avoid such a hazard is paranoia and who want's to appear paranoid?

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