By on April 25, 2014


As we hover around the fifty mile an hour mark in the right lane, the car ahead begins to wander again. First to the right, correcting sharply as they touch the rumble strip. Then to the left, as they overcorrect and wobble back across the center line. Suddenly, there’s a white flash to outside my driver’s door window. It’s some kind of late model Benz, burning up the passing lane Autobahn style. Not good.

The day started with plenty of optimism. Three weeks after the engorged disc in my lower back was finally cut down to size, I feel well enough to attempt the longest car ride I’ve taken in five months. It won’t be easy, but I have a friend along to help with the driving. We’ll be attending a conference about an hour and a half away from our homes, in a major Southeastern city. There will be a lot of sitting involved; my least favorite activity since my spine began to malfunction more than a year ago. However, the recent experiences of our dear EIC pro tempore give me strength. Surely I can handle a short drive if the man who pretty much broke everything a short time ago is already back to his jet-setting ways.

With my friend to distract me, the first drive is less onerous than I expected. The conference goes well, and I don’t regret the trip. All too soon it’s time to pack up and leave. After dosing up on ibuprofen, I slide into the driver’s seat for the return journey. We hit the freeway as darkness falls.

A little more than an hour in, we’re cruising at a little under seventy in the right lane. I’m pretty sore by now, but we’ll be home in a half hour or so.  The freeway is fairly empty. I try to avoid sliding into the hypnotic state that so often accompanies long stretches of straight road. At least I have my friend to keep me alert. As well as the pair of flashing taillights that I’m fast converging on, dead ahead of me.

Damn. I don’t have to slam the brakes, but the deceleration is rapid. I want to pass him, but he’s literally taking up the whole road. He splits the two lanes, blocking me on both sides. I fall back. We’re doing a little bit above fifty, and he has his four ways on. What the hell is going on? Is he looking for someone on the side of the highway? Or perhaps for a mile marker, or an exit sign? Cars start to stack up behind us. He drifts back to the right, opening up the left lane. The cars behind us hustle past, and he speeds up a little. I could pass, but I don’t. Something doesn’t feel right.

I drop back and watch. It’s not long before he begins to weave again: left and right, back and forth. Both of us observe him, or possibly her- it’s too dark to see inside. We watch them in silence for a few minutes, wondering if maybe they’ll pull over. But nothing happens- the four ways keep going, the weaving stays about the same, and cars continue to blow by us on the left.

What should we do? I don’t know the number for the Highway Patrol. I’ve never dialed 911 before in my life, as strange as that sounds. Is this the kind of thing that 911 should even be used for? Does a guy who can’t drive straight really count as an “emergency?” It’s dark, we’re both tired, and the sawed-off disc in my lower back is increasingly making its unhappiness known. We’re rapidly converging on our destination, and I have no desire to get involved in what could rapidly become a long or even dangerous confrontation.

It’s at that point that the Mercedes appears. It’s a miss, but too close for comfort. It sends our subject wheeling back to the right, against the rumble strip, and then back left again on the same crazy cycle. Drunk. I don’t recall which of us said it first, but there is no disagreement. Even if we’re wrong, we’ve passed a tipping point that shouldn’t be ignored. We decide to make the call.

I hand my friend my phone. He gets the local 911 operator, who immediately begins pumping us for information. Where are you headed? What’s his license plate number? The make/model of car? And so on and so forth.  Then the operator wants to know my phone number. My friend hands it back so I can tell her. At this point, we’re running out of her jurisdiction, so she abruptly transfers me to the Highway Patrol. A few buzzes, and I get their operator. He begins asking me the same set of questions- apparently nothing was communicated by the local operator.

After a few more minutes I finish up with the Highway Patrol operator. He tells me that there are no units in our area, but he’ll try to dispatch one to check out the situation. He advises me to turn around as soon as possible and go home. There’s only one problem: we have now missed all of our exits, and neither of us knows how much farther we must go before we can turn around. To make matters worse (or possibly better), I seem to have spooked our subject when I pulled in close to read his license plate. His four ways are still flashing, but the wandering has mostly stopped. His speed increases to tolerable level as he stays in the right lane. We drop back and follow at a distance as the minutes tick by. No sign of the cops.

Finally, an exit appears. It’s a rural area, but I see that I can turn around and go back in the opposite direction. I start to head for ramp, but then I see that our subject is doing the same thing. “No!” my passenger shouts. I dive back to the freeway at the last moment. My friend is right; I don’t want to be stopped on that ramp behind a driver who has undoubtedly realized we’ve been following him. I don’t need any bullet holes in my car, myself, or my friend. I watch our subject switch off his four ways as he heads up the ramp. For a moment, I panic and wonder if he might come down the opposite side and follow us. But we never see him again.

We drive a little farther before we come upon another exit, turn around, and head back home. We’ve tacked on an extra half-hour or so to our journey with little to show for it. I feel frustrated, but also relieved. Maybe the cops pinched him, or maybe he got away. It’s out of our hands now. Even so, I can’t help but feel that there was something else going on besides a garden-variety DUI; the endlessly flashing four ways are a bizarre coda on the entire story.  What about you, B&B? Have you ever made the call?

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61 Comments on “Making the Call...”

  • avatar

    I had a similar occurrence back before cell phones. Driving on a two lane road, the guy was going back and forth from one shoulder to another. I had to follow him a few hair raising miles until I could find a pay phone to call the police. Fortunately, he didn’t hit anyone, and the police were able to pull him over.

  • avatar

    I pass whoever gets in my way and I just keep going. I’m not playing games with anyone nor trying to show off on the road. If someone passes me – fine, I’m not following you and I’m not interested in playing catch up.

    I rarely bother to alert police to pedestrians or drivers unless I’m certain there is a serious threat.

    If you’re fortunate enough to be in a state with concealed carry laws, (or are an x-cop) you probably can protect yourself.

    They say: “If you see something SAY something”

    I say: “If you see something SPRAY something”.

    Kimber .45 is my recommendation.

    • 0 avatar

      I usually pass and one time I did I was debating calling it in. A few miles later he totaled my car by hitting me at 65 while I was making a left turn and he had a second lane to use but didn’t. He was asleep in this case and paid for it. I got a newer car out of it. I always make the call now.

      As far as agencies not talking, sometimes it is worse. I was bringing my daughter home from her softball game when we say a guy passed out hanging upside down on a tractor. I gave her the phone to call 911 (she was 10) and I got out to get the guy at least right side up if there were no other injuries. She stayed calm with the 911 operator but I could tell she was getting frustrated having to repeatedly tell him “I don’t know the address, we are 100 yards from such and such school on county whatever” and the operator pestered for the address and I had a second to take the phone and said “We don’t know the address, tell the ambulance we are at such and such school” and he proceeds to tell me he needs the address. Finally I said send them to the corner of highway x and county x and my daughter will meet them there. When the ambulance got there I told them about the address issue and they said when they heard the situation and location they had a good idea even who it was. I guess some of the operators don’t know the area and won’t take your word for it.

      • 0 avatar

        Fear of what happened to you is why I never pass. If I keep them in front of me, I can watch and react to every move they make.

        And yes, I would make the call. Decisions have consequences.

    • 0 avatar

      BTRS lives in the wrong state – I hear Florida is more than happy to accommodate wannabe LEO’s with a trigger-finger fetish…

      The problem most of the time with ‘questionable’ vehicle activity is that it’s a bad idea to stay behind them, and it’s a bad idea to pass them (unless you’re willing to put a LOT of road between you.) The best answer is still to pull off the road and take a minute to stretch, read a book, or get a soda.

      I probably call it in once every other month, but I’m typically in a major metro area late at night (and have been called back a few times for more information.) It’s not hard, it’s not Narc’ing, and usually they will wake up the speed trap guys ahead so you’re actually doing yourself a favor. The big issue is still that many jurisdictions do not have mandatory jail time for repeat offenders (on top of fines and driving loss) – at least the liquor companies ‘help’ with ads, even if the cynic in me just believes they are trying to preserve their best customers…

    • 0 avatar

      As a joke, it’s not particularly funny.

      As advice, it’s the worst you could possibly give.

      • 0 avatar

        exactly, so to follow through this logic either ignore the public safety issue entirely (thats a responsible citizen!)or if you do engage pump the guy full of lead! Sure the guys a moron for drunk driving and putting everyone else in danger but does he deserve to get riddled with bullets???

        • 0 avatar

          “Sure the guys a moron for drunk driving and putting everyone else in danger but does he deserve to get riddled with bullets???”

          Hell, yes. Bullets are cheap. And drivers who get that drunk will ALWAYS do it again.

        • 0 avatar

          I never said shoot anyone. I said: protect yourself if things turn ugly.

          • 0 avatar

            I looked it up; you can shoot a drunk driver and still be a good person. Just get out of there quick afterwards.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          I think bigtruck is merely saying that rather than driving past the exit so that he couldn’t be ambushed by the driver (who is in front and who could easily create a roadblock on the off-ramp), he would take his chances on the exit off-ramp and know that he had a firearm for protection. While I’m not necessarily against civilian firearm use, I am against *irresponsible* firearm use. Be responsible with your gun. That means that if you find yourself having to choose between a situation that seems likely to require the use of your gun and a situation that definitely *won’t* require a gun, choose the second option.

          I can even appeal to people who are totally selfish. In firearm-training, they teach you to shoot to kill. One of the main reasons for this is so that the other party doesn’t have the chance to live and give his/her testimony in court. Things might have been different for Zimmerman if Trayvon Martin had lived to tell the tale. So you really don’t want to risk having to shoot someone (even in self-defense) and then having that person survive and stand against you in court.

          Again, if something makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and you feel the need to reach for your gun, don’t proceed into the situation unless you absolutely have to.

          • 0 avatar

            In theory, if you must carry a gun, you are held at a higher standard of judgement than say “Regular Joe”.

            Unfortunately, there is a severe lacking of intelligent individuals concealing and carrying, and a severe overflow of unintelligent trigger happy idiots carrying them to make some sort of political statement.

            I love guns, grew up around them, and have a safe full of them (very grateful for anonymity right now).

            Gun ownership and concealing and carrying is one of the last great American rights, but shoving political agendas in generally non-gun individual’s faces is not the way to show your responsibility and/or harmlessness.

            But when I carry, I know that if anything, I have to act like the gun is not even there. NOT look for trouble. I won’t talk about it. I won’t show it to you. I won’t even have a gun discussion.

            In other words, I have to know DAMNED well that I’m about a half second away from getting hurt or killed before I even think about pullin’ my piece.

            If I’m carrying, I don’t take a “ready to go” approach to potentially dangerous situations. I fall back, because A.) I don’t want to lose my privelege of carrying my piece NOR do I want to be under investigation, or B.) I don’t want to put anybody down, even if their being stupid, commiting a crime, et cetera.

            I’m not a police officer, neither are most people who carry.

            If you don’t know when to walk away or ignore the fact that you have a loaded weapon on your waist, you probably shouldn’t be carrying.

            Put on your big boy pants before you decide to walk around with your balls swayin’ back and forth just because you’ve got a pistol.

            Just sayin’.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            I completely agree, raresleeper.

  • avatar

    “apparently nothing was communicated by the local operator”

    Heh…. Big Brother surveillance state indeed.

    • 0 avatar

      They only know everything when you don’t want them to

    • 0 avatar

      Just about every time a call anyone for customer service–phone company comes to mind–I have to do the whole name, address, account number rigamarole every time I get transferred. It isn’t just big brother who can’t figure how to do what should be pretty damn simple communication.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s strange. When I call the phone company they want my number after I tell them my name, and when it matches, their computer calls up everything for them. I can get right to the reason for the call very quickly, but that’s with an experienced “representative”.

  • avatar

    This doesn’t make much sense. You’re following the for quite some time (“we’ll be home in a half hour or so” + delay caused by the drunk). It takes you that long to decide to call the cops (or to decide that the driver is drunk?) because you’ve then missed all your exits.

    The most common sense action in this situation would have been to simply pull off at any exit once you decided not to pass and rest for a bit–get out, walk around, stretch, switch drivers or do whatever it is that makes your back feel a bit better. Let the drunk get far away from you. Then continue on your way.

  • avatar

    You’d be surprised how poor communication can be between police agencies.

    As for the driver, calling it in is the right thing to do…but don’t expect a whole lot of action on the problem. The problem is one of density. There are relatively few officers on the highway patrolling a whole lot of road…and by “patrolling” I mean largely doing stuff like speed enforcement, working an accident scene, following up on an investigation, etc. In the rural areas near me the sheriff’s department can have 7 deputies on the road to cover an entire county that’s 30 miles from one end to the other. They use zones, but sometimes those zones of coverage get shot to hell by calls for service. One accident and a domestic dispute and now you’ve got 4 deputies on the road trying to cover a pretty big patch of land.

    The logistics are a nightmare.

    Unless, of course, there’s some federal highway safety grant money…in which case the roads will be three deep in patrol cars so cops can write tickets to people who aren’t really doing anything dangerous. It’s ridiculous.

    Speaking personally, in this situation I’d report as much as I could about the driver while getting the hell away from him as quickly as possible. I have no control over whether or not he crashes and hurts somebody…but I may be able to make sure that the somebody isn’t me.

    Imperfect option, certainly…but we live in an imperfect world.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      That sounds good to me. Phone it in, but then stay far away.

    • 0 avatar

      Here’s an example of lackluster communications literally killing someone. A deputy’s own daughter of all poor people…

      There’s a part where a lady saw the victim on US41 while trying to relay info to dispatchers, but couldn’t keep up with the vehicle because of a signal change or turn or whatever.

      I sped a lot of time on the road and – maybe it seems silly – but after reading that, I’ve solidified in my mind that if I’m ever involved in a situation similar to that, I WILL break traffic laws and ask forgiveness later.

      I mean, I kind of do it on my commutes anyway, so it might as well be for a good cause.

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t have waited more than a minute to make this call. Incapacitated drivers (for whatever reason) simply should not be on the road. Alerting authorities is the correct action. I will die someday, but I really, really do not want to die by the hand of an incapacitated driver.

    My most extreme experience is as follows. Late one Saturday night, I guess around 2AM, I was in the kitchen of our downtown apartment for a glass of water. I heard a very loud and distinct sound that I assumed was a low-flying helicopter. I rushed to the windows to get a look. It was not a helicopter, but a Ford Explorer careening down the bridge next to our building (presumably with a flat tire) under little or no control. At the bottom of the bridge, the vehicle blew through a red light, hopped a curb, and caught itself on a guy wire for an overhead power line. Once the vehicle came to rest, there were no signs of movement. I called the police and described what I had seen. I watched from our window as the police arrived. It seems there was only one occupant, the driver, who seemed uninjured but under the influence of some substance. When the police began to cuff him, he became physical and had to be restrained. I was glad he hadn’t killed anyone, including himself. Incapacitated drivers should not be tolerated. Call 911.

  • avatar

    I was driving home in a snow storm once on the freeway, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a pair of tail lights way off in the ditch. I turned to get a better look, but by then we were past and I couldn’t see anything. I started to wonder if I imagined it, but for some reason I decided to call 911. Never had called 911 before either. I told the operator the rough location, the exit I had just passed before and the mile marker we came up on. She took the information and hung up. About 30 minutes later I got a call saying they couldn’t find anything, and asked for more detail. At that point I felt like an ass, and realized I probably was seeing things. I tried to give them better information about what I thought I saw, but I started thinking that I just sent the police on a wild goose chase. 20 minutes later, I got a call saying they found the car. It was buried in a snow drift and the occupants had been there about 3 hours. No phone. Nobody else had called it in. It was a relief for me as it validated that I wasn’t crazy and I hadn’t been “that guy” that calls 911 for strange sounds or UFO sightings.

    In your case, the guy was definitely drunk. They might not have caught him, but his plate number is now on record for a possible DUI.

  • avatar

    Coming home one Sunday night on 45 in North Houston where it’s 5 lanes in each direction and a guy is weaving back and forth across most of those 5 lanes. I called 911 but while I was still on the phone he managed to veer far enough to the right to sideswipe the guard rail and run off in the culvert. Luckily he didn’t manage to injure or crash into anyone else but there were still people slowing down then trying to smoke past him which seemed like a bad idea to me considering how far he was swerving side to side.

  • avatar
    Silent Ricochet

    One night while driving home from work with a friend on one of the main routes that lead to my rather small town, we encountered a similar situation. The road was notorious for drivers going well under the speed limit, it was ALWAYS frustrating, but something was different this time. It was dark, I think a Thursday night, perhaps a Thirsty Thursday for this guy because he absolutely out of control. Directly ahead of us was an old white Ford pickup weaving in and out of the oncoming lane, almost to the point where he was driving completely on the other side of the road. This happened several times, with a few close calls. My friend and I were obviously concerned and cursing and questioning what this idiot was doing so I handed her my phone and told her to call 911. The local dispatcher had us constantly relay information as we drove along. Luckily the Town and Village of my area have their own (huge) police departments, so there were plenty of units available. The erratic behavior continued all the way onto Main St. of my small town when I spotted a cruiser. He was headed in the opposite direction, I guess to maybe in an attempt to close the distance on us. I flashed my lights and beeped, after which the Officer pulls the sickest 180 I’ve ever seen a Chevy Impala do in my life. Hilariously enough, the truck we were following noticed what had happened and quickly pulled over – get this – in front of the bar… As we passed him (cop right behind us), the man immediately hopped out of his truck and pretended to act like he was fixing something in the bed of his truck. We laughed and watched in our mirrors as the police officer hopped out of his car and approached him.

    I’d like to think he got arrested. He almost killed himself and a few others multiple times that night. Clearly a drunk idiot so I hope he got what he deserved.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    I’ve made the call twice: in both cases a large combination rig was weaving erratically on a major north-south city artery and everyone behind was scattering to the side streets in order to use nearby thoroughfares. In one case I was the first, though in both cases I wasn’t the only one who made that call.

  • avatar

    I never have made such a call, the only circumstances that I would consider making such a call would be if I felt someone could be a danger to themselves or others, otherwise it’s BYOB and carry on

  • avatar

    I’ve made the call once before.

    I was trailing a maroon Windstar van and noticed that the driver was drinking a bottle of Budweiser while operating the vehicle.

    The driver just casually drank as if it was all fine and dandy. Then I became more concerned upon the realization that I had my wife and children in the car. In turn, I called the police.

    I gave them the vehicle description, the direction the car was headed, so forth.

    Then I made a big mistake, and gave her the description of the Fire Department Logo Decal on one of the corners of the van’s rear window. Then the operator’s attitude changed completely.

    Something tells me that once I told the operator about the Fire Department Decal, this was suddenly a waste of time.

    Complete B.S. if you ask me.

  • avatar

    Sorry for the long story, but:

    On Tuesday of this week, I came to a stop light after picking up my daughter from skating. When the light turned green, the car in front of me pulled away a little too slowly. This light is just before a couple of on-ramps for a causeway to a neighbouring city. He looked like he was taking the first ramp, only to jerk the car back onto the road at the last second. He then again jerked the car suddenly onto the second ramp, where I was going as well. It’s a clover leaf, and he stuck to the outside white line the whole way, going way too fast for my comfort. Instead of merging at the end, he just went directly into the driving lane without hesitating or even looking for traffic. Luckily there was none there at the time.

    At this point I thought he was just a little distracted, but that changed quickly. After I merged into the driving lane, I could see flashing police lights about 1/2 km ahead. It’s two lanes in each direction, and the police had a checkpoint set up, blocking the middle lanes. Traffic was lined up in the outside lanes, going through the checkpoint. The driver in question failed to notice this and kept accelerating past the speed limit of 70 km/h in the lane blocked by two police cars. I pulled into the outside lane and watched him continue to accelerate until the last second when he locked the brakes up after finally noticing the roadblock.

    Needless to say the line started moving quicker after this, since two of the officers ran over to his car. When I finally got to where all this happened, I could see that he was stopped about 1 foot from the rear bumper of one of the police cars. I don’t think he drove home that night. The officer that was standing by the police car while it all happened didn’t seem too amused. :)

  • avatar

    August, 2013, northbound on I-65 just north of Lafayette, IN, and heading home from the Florida panhandle with the family in the minivan; so we’re 1800+ miles into our return trip and really just wanted to get home. It’s heavy traffic, but the weather is good and everyone is going 75-80 MPH. We get passed on all sides, shoulder, between cars (right on the dashed line) by a couple dozen crotch-rocket style motor bikes, many with dual riders. My wife did call 911 while riding shotgun so I could keep the van dead-steady since we had bikes on both sides and cars in the other lanes. Frightening. I believe strongly in “bikes belong” and “share the road” but that behavior is ridiculous. Indiana State Police got many calls from the road that day and were aware of the problem. We didn’t need those idiots causing a pile-up. I exited shortly thereafter and took a local highway home. Better safe than dead.

  • avatar

    I had what I thought was a near-death experience like this last year.

    Daily commute, construction zone, temporary barrier narrowing 3 lane freeway to two lanes. Come up on this idiot, speeds up to 55, slows back to 30, weaving between lanes, repeat.

    People are passing him between him and the wall, but I am afraid to because he keeps weaving. You guessed it, finally just as some one is about to pass, he weaves left. No room, the passing car slams on the brakes, causing the semi behind him (to the left of me) to slam on his brakes.

    So inches from my window is a semi, shaking as it tries to slow down. I thought, so this is how it all ends. But miraculously we all missed each other and then it was my exit.


  • avatar

    2001 the call was made on me. I 75 north of Bay City, MI. I was 21, drunk as a skunk, and piloting a beat to shit Grand Am. I remember weaving from lane to lane before getting pulled over. From what I remember of the conversation with the cop, at least one person called it in, maybe more. I still have the police report from that night.

    Thank you to who ever called that in. I was drunk enough that I could have killed someone and not even known it until waking up in a jail cell the next morning. Thank you for getting me off the road.

    This person saved my life as well. The judge said got to jail, or go to AA. So I went to AA It took about 8 months before I was able to quit drinking. 13 years later I have not drank.

    Don’t wait. Always call it in.

  • avatar

    California State 132 cuts across the San Joaquin valley. At the time (pre-cellphone) I was doing the 55 legal limit in mt ’65 Monza, heading east to visit my dad, It was pitch black,no fog.

    A late ’70s Cadillac eased up to within 2-3 feet off my bumper. The road was striped with a double yellow. I thought about pulling over to let him pass, but realized if he had some sort of ill intent, there was no way I was going to give him the chance.

    Which left the option to speed up. I downshifted and goosed it to 70 and kept it there for about two minutes, then slowed back to 55 again.

    Within a sort time, Caddy was back, right on my bumper.

    This repeated itself 3 more times, each time I ratcheted my speed closer to 80, then dropped to 55.

    After the 4th time of this nonsense, I assumed he was drunk, and seeing there was a good-sized ditch off the right lane, I did a hard brake check (Raybestos Velvetouch linings FTW) to try and put him there.

    After the 3rd fishtail, I saw a bright red light turn on behind him in my rear view mirror..the CHP had been behind him the whole time.

    I gassed it and continued on my way, thankful that one more drunk was going to be taken off the road.

    • 0 avatar

      This is a strange sort of joke, I assume?

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      So why’d they take so long to pull him over? He could have rear-ended and seriously hurt you any one of those times…

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve wondered that many times too.
        I kept a close eye on my rear-view
        mirror as I hit the brakes, and made
        sure I was accelerating just before
        he could have hit me.

        There wasn’t much else in the way of
        options. That road has all sorts of
        unlit side roads out in the middle of fields
        and orchards, so I had no assurance
        the other driver couldn’t have boxed
        me in if I had tried to hang a hard right
        in an evasive move.

        Since 132 is a main artery between
        Modesto and the Bay Area, semis
        were coming the opposite way with
        enough frequency to prevent a quick 180..
        and even then, I only had 110 (gross)
        horsepower to work with against a 472
        cubic inch V-8. if he wanted to give chase,
        he could have caught up pretty quickly.

        Besides, I had put Camaro taillights in the
        rear (not my car in the link)

        and was banking on the drunk
        mis-identfying my car if was about to
        file a complaint.

        In the end the joke was on him, hopefully the cop thought the same.

  • avatar

    That dispatcher made the right call. Let the drunk driver go her way and mind your own business. They’d rather keep all their officers on their respective beats, writing as many tickets as possible, than babysitting/processing this drunk driver all night. That’s if they can find her. Good luck there. Not happening.

    Make the call and move on. When you’re following, it’s another distraction for the impaired driver.

  • avatar

    I have made the call 3 times. 2 for furniture on the highway. Both times the operator already had calls in and told me that they were sending someone to remove it. The other time was for a broken down motorist. I did not have time to pull over to help so I called. A few miles up I saw the state trooper pull out of his hiding spot to go help. I would not hesitate at all to call the police for a impaired driver. The damage they could do is too great not to call if they wreck.

  • avatar

    I’ve called twice. The first was about 15 years ago. Passed a big rig where the driver had pulled over and was checking out a diesel leak from his tank. A big leak. I saw him get out and pull away, so I stopped to let him pass. Followed him back to the highway, him leaving a 3″ wide strip of diesel on the road and then called it in. Never heard anything.

    Called again last fall. The 3rd time she hit the centerline rumble strip and then the shoulder strip (while changing speed up and down between 70km and 100km/h) I picked up my phone. I knew there was a Mountie detachment 2 exits up, so I was optimistic. Get to the ramp and there’s a Mountie sitting and waiting on the other side of the road. The guy behind me rolls his window down and starts waving and pointing at the car I called in. I do the same. Mountie was on her bumper lights and sirens for a whole km before she pulled over.

    They called me a few days later to say that she wasn’t drunk, just distracted. But, thanks for calling, because she had a warrant and they arrested her. The car sat on the shoulder for almost a week.

    TL;DR Called woman in. So did at least one other car. Not drunk, but outstanding warrants. Got to see it, was very cathartic.

  • avatar

    You should never hesitate to call 911. If you feel like you need to, you can start the call with “this is not an emergency, but…” as the 911 operator always leads with “911, state your emergency.”.

    I’ve called 911 four times: one time was not an emergency (saw a fender bender, everyone was already on the side of the road), and one “wasn’t an emergency… yet” (an intersection where one side was showing green and the other side had all the red light bulbs blown out, so none of the cars were stopping).

  • avatar

    Last year in the City of Vancouver. Older Corolla with a little old lady. She cannot hold her lane, driving right through stop signs, seems confused. I made the call. I was told others had phoned, but there were no units available. So, I got away from her. Two minutes later I passed the VPD speed trap with 4 motorcyle units.

  • avatar

    I’ve called in drunks a few times. Maine takes this very seriously. A number of years ago a drunk made it all the way down 295 from Augusta to Portland despite multiple 911 calls. He plowed into stopped traffic at the toll booths and killed some people. The State Police took a ton of heat for it. Now the call goes out to all local jurisdictions as well as the Staties. All Maine cops have statewide jurisdiction anyway.

  • avatar

    Here is another question-when would you do more than make a call? I ask this because just under a month ago in my neck of the woods a guy in a Tahoe stopped in the southbound lane of the highway and turned around so he was going North in the southbound lane. There was no doubt it was an intentional act. He ended up crashing with a truck head on a mile or 2 up the road, killing himself, and the other driver.

    Plenty of people called 911-and I don’t like to play Monday morning QB, and honestly don’t know how I would have reacted had I been there (I wasn’t), stopped watching him turn around on the highway as some of the witnesses were. But I think should something like that happens knowing what I know now-I’d punt his ass right off the road before he got going and let the insurance companies deal with it. My only fear would be if he had a gun/weapon as I don’t carry one myself.

    Is that crazy?

  • avatar

    …After a few more minutes I finish up with the Highway Patrol operator. He tells me that there are no units in our area, but he’ll try to dispatch one to check out the situation…

    The few times I’ve called 911 or used the OnStar emergency button this is always the story. No units in the area…we’ll try to send someone, blah, blah, blah. Or the other one, “yes sir, we’re already aware of the situation,” like I was supposed to magically know that someone else had called.

    The worst one was when I call for a wrong way driver on I-5 northbound. The driver passed me, to my left, heading south at about 50 MPH in the HOV lane. It was a dark rainy night. On that one I got they, “yes sir we’re aware of the situation,” with a bored tone.

    Aware of the situation? Lady, some dude or dudette driving the wrong way almost took me and my family out.

    I’ve basically given up reporting extremely dangerous driving anymore – 911 doesn’t seem to do much of anything and the stretched out police units never seem to be around (except for when I want to drive 72 – then they are EVERYWHERE)

  • avatar
    Christian Gulliksen

    Conditioned by “Drunk Driver — Call 911” signs up and down Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, I never hesitate to call 911 when I’m reasonable sure a driver is drunk or impaired.

    It rarely results in discernible action from law enforcement, but I keep calling as a matter of public safety — maybe one day that one call will prevent someone from getting hurt.

  • avatar

    If I think a driver is intoxicated or impaired in some way I’m making the call. Fortunately, that’s only happened once. I10 East between Pensacola and Tallahassee I got behind a pick up that couldn’t hold his lane. Called the highway patrol, gave a description of the truck and the plate numbers and as I was finishing the call he exited. Don’t know what became of it.

    I had another situation which is not similar in any way except it really pissed me off. Lunch hour, about 12:45 PM leaving a local eatery. Had an event at the squadron so I needed to be back when a train, a very long a$$ train, stopped on the tracks.

    I made the call, eventually reaching someone in operations who was aware of the situation and explained, through clenched teeth, that they we’re getting the situation under control and the train should be on its way momentarily.

    I understand isht happens and sometimes trains need to stop. Even in the middle of the day. Even if it blocks several crossings and prevents folk from doing what they need to *but* for some reason this happened far too often as CSX. As I recall either the city or state applied some pressure and these incidents lessened markedly.

  • avatar

    A couple of years ago I was coming into Memphis from Arkansas. There was road construction and everyone was forced into a single lane. I moved over in front of a semi and made it through the short construction zone. Then the semi began to pass me. I suppose I had made the driver mad by pulling in front. The semi pulled along side and then intentionally swerved and IMO tried to hit me. I headed for the shoulder of the road. Seemed almost like a scene from “Duel”.

    I got behind the semi as we were crossing the bridge into Memphis. The semi driver seemed to be having trouble staying in the lane. I dialed 911 and got the Memphis police dispatch. I explained what had happend and gave the information about the truck and where we were on Crump Blvd. The dispatcher said there were no units avaiable and recommended that I not follow the vehicle. I happened to look over at a Quicky Mart parking lot and there was a squad car. I told the dispatcher there was a unit right at my location. She still insisted there was no officer avaiable to help.

    I was able to get the trucking company name and trailer number. Later that evening I e-mailed the trucking firm and told them what happened. Never heard anything else.

  • avatar

    It’s ironic that a roadside callbox is shown, though the story is about making a cell phone call while in the car. When I worked for a state highway department, one project was choosing safe locations for motorists to stop and building concrete bases for the cell phones. A later project removed many of them, because people were using cell phones instead.

    The same thing is happening with pay phones. One of the Superman movies got a laugh when Clark Kent looked for a phone booth and had only a clam shell kiosk nearby. Today, he’ll have to look for a public bathroom, or an alley to change.

  • avatar

    When I lived in Wisconsin I called 911 on swerving drivers three times that I can remember. Similar experience to yours in that they were all on the interstate and crossed multiple jurisdictions. On all but one the cops caught up to us and I was told to wait behind them as they were stopped and given a roadside field sobriety test. Surprisingly neither of them were drunk. One was a just a terrible driver (I seriously thought the guy was at least twice the legal limit), the other guy was just under the limit (0.07 – lucky bastard). My tolerance for DUI is 0. If you can’t keep it in the lane and it’s after dark, I’m making the call and letting the cops sort it out.

  • avatar
    Mark in Maine

    My most recent 911 call happened one night three or four years ago. A bunch of us had been out at camp all day – Fourth of July, IIRC – and I got a ride back from the lake with a sober friend, as I’d gotten “festive” once I’d put the boat away. We made our way back into the outskirts of town, and noticed something that wasn’t right at the first major intersection that we came to. Big custom Harley, laying on one side, in the turning lane, and its motionless rider (no helmet), in a small pool of blood, one lane over. I told my friend to pull off into the adjacent Stop&Rob parking lot, as I looked around. Across the street, there stood a small knot of people – gawking – nobody had a phone out. By this time, I was out of the car (mint ’87 Monte Carlo SS) and running for the rider lying in the street. I stood between oncoming traffic and this guy, called 911, and, owing to the fact that the local ambulance service was located three blocks away, and heard sirens immediately. It didn’t end well, as the rider had suffered serious head trauma, but I was impressed with the performance of our city’s paramedics, and our police officers – who took the statement of a buzzed guy in shorts and a tropical shirt – without blinking an eye.

  • avatar

    I’ve called a lot, at least once a year since I’ve had a cellphone. I don’t remember what year I got my first phone, but I never had one of those “brick” phones.

    The first time I called was on some high school kids in a red Honda Prelude. They were chugging wine out of a huge bottle and having a great time doing it. I know it was wine because I could smell it when I stopped next to them at a light. I was a friend of the dispatcher, so I got to hear the whole story a couple of days later. The cops pulled the kids over in front of one of their houses, and the driver ended up getting his first DUI at the ripe age of 17.

    The last time I called was in Jan, after one of the big snowstorms. I was heading Northbound on 475/23 to work, and was going a reasonable for the conditions 30 MPH, and even at that, I was passing some cars. It wasn’t that bad, but I was shocked when an F150 passed me doing about 75-80 MPH, weaving all over the place when he would rub against one of the ruts. When I was on with the OSP dispatcher, she seemed to want me to give her the plate, and got kind of testy when I told her there was snow on it, and I wasn’t about to even try to catch up to read it again. About the time I was hanging up with OSP, I told her it was passing the Central Ave exit. She immediately put it out over the air, and as I was on the ramp, I saw a fully lit up OSP Charger getting on to pull him over. I went into work and one of the other employees came in and told me the F150 driver had been pulled out of his truck and was being frisked as he passed. I wonder if he was drunk or just stupid?

    Of all the calls I’ve made about safety issues, nothing compares to the insane railroad police dispatchers I’ve talked to over the last 25 years or so, and their lack of ability to get ANYTHING correct, no matter how simple it was. I watch trains often, so I know when something’s wrong. I’m not sure about Norfolk Southern now, but the emergency number went to Philadelphia when they took over for Conrail, as it always did with Conrail. They couldn’t even get a simple milepost correct. I called them one night to report a loco was on fire at the rear, it was not a “stack fire”. I told them the loco number, the milepost (297 on the Chicago line, AKA Holland, Ohio), and that the train was headed Eastbound. You would think it would be simple enough to get at least the milepost correct, but that was too much to hope for. About 10 minutes later, the dispatcher calls the train, which was passing over the Maumee River bridge at that point, getting nothing I said passed on correctly. I said it wasn’t a stack fire, the dispatcher told them it was a stack fire, which on GE locos, is no big deal, it’s common. They got the milepost wrong, they hadn’t even reached the one they said yet. They did somehow get the loco number correct. About the time the train crew said, “Ok, big deal!”, the alarm bells started and they discovered their rear loco of three was on fire, and it was a pretty bad one. The Conrail police were in the area I was at and since I had been sitting next to the tracks, it was a good guess I was the caller, so he stops and he and I talked for a while, and I told him I was about to give up calling, since they always got it wrong. He said he would listen to the tape of the call and try to “get it fixed”. At this point, after several more CR/NS screwups, I have given up calling, unless it’s something that could kill someone, and I only call to keep myself guilt free, “Hey, I called them, and they didn’t listen!”.

    • 0 avatar

      What’s the criteria for narcing people out for driving slow enough as to impede traffic flow? According to the OHP, it’s anything below 55mph. (I even wrote them an E-Mail a couple months ago about the annoying backups from idiots using the portion of SB I-75 between the Ohio Turnpike onramp and Route 20 in Perrysburg as a massive decel lane–I’ve had to drive as low as *** 30mph *** in excellent conditions in that stretch with traffic blowing my doors off at 65+ one lane over because of one or two duma$$es lacking the ability to use that thing under their right foot to achieve forward motion; I stated that it would be like shooting fish in a barrel for impeding, and their response was that they would keep an eye out.) To me, anything below the underposted limits in P-Burg and Maumee should be fair game! (My Adaptive Cruise Control helps, but shuts off at 22mph, so when I’m behind the idiot in a Perrysburg 25mph zone doing 20 (despite school not being in session), the only thing keeping me somewhat sane is the “ECO” setting in my Accord, since I can’t lock the car into 2nd-gear.)

  • avatar

    A couple of months ago, driving with my 16 YO on her temps on a rural type of road that happens to be in the city limits, we see a car backing slowly right to left onto the road maybe 1/2 mile ahead. She slows as we approach, not sure what’s going on and it creeps into the road and then past, stopping suddenly and staying there.

    I thought that perhaps he was backing out of one drive on the right into another across the street to then pull out onto the road in the opposite direction. But when we pass by, we see a Chrysler 300 bridged across the ditch on the LH side, not going anywhere soon. No activity in the car, no one got out. He had backed out of a side street on the right, across the road into the ditch and had never even hesitated.

    After passing, I instruct her to turn around, knowing that something is wrong and we should check on the driver, thinking maybe it was a heart attack or something. She pulls into the side street and I jog across to check on the driver (I had instructed her to call 911 if she sees something go wrong. In hindsight, I should have called before I went to the car). He’s slumped over the wheel and I knock on the door. He slowly raises his head, then attempts to put the window down, first the rear than the front. I ask if he’s OK and he flashes a goofy smile, mumbles at me something, and gives me a fist bump. Then he puts the window back up. Oh, and he reeks of alcohol.

    I go back to the car and call 911, give them the details and head home. Since he was clearly not going anywhere (his car was wedged in the ditch tight and he seemed completely unaware of, well, anything frankly), the dispatcher says I don’t need to stick around. We pass the squad heading to the scene on our way.

    Later, I get a subpoena as a witness in the case. The prosecutor says these rarely go to trial, so I likely won’t be needed. I still don’t know where he was caking from, there wasn’t an obvious driveway or anything.

  • avatar

    In a situation like this one, I would have called much sooner, but I wouldn’t have dialed 911. Most states have a Highway Patrol assist number. In Missouri it is *55, in Kansas it is *47.

    The last time I used it was this past winter. It had been a sunny day and a lot of the leftover snow had melted off the roadway. We came over the hill on a three lane interstate, in the leftmost lane (my adult son was driving). There was a car parked half on the shoulder and half in out land. My son noted the mile marker and I called it in. As it was late afternoon, and the traffic was picking up, this was an accident waiting to happen.

    On the other hand, one night I was driving home alone and came upon debris (a mattress and pallet) in the roadway. Instead of trying to use my phone, I just drove on to the next exit and directly to the police station two blocks away. But if I hadn’t been familiar with the area I would have called. (It is hard to use my phone because I can’t see it well with my driving glasses on.)

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