Doing the Right Thing and Doing the Smart Thing: Not always the same.

A case out of Tampa. One driver suspects another driver who is driving erratically is under the influence and follows, call to 911 is never made. All vehicles eventually stop, followed driver gets out of his car and confronts follower and punches him inside the car. Followed driver then gets both pepper sprayed and shot. Followed driver dies and n ow everybody is up in a tizzy.

The crux in this case is going to be timeline: Did the Road Samaritan had enough time to call 911 or the events happened faster than indicated in the article?  Still, the shooter could have done things smarter and avoid confrontation.

I have no love for Drunk Drivers. It comes from having experienced first hand the “joys” of the lackluster performance of a driver under the influence in the form of a head-on collision. My car was totaled but by the grace of God and the seat belt, I walked away with nothing else than a bruise across my chest. And yes, I am one of those bastards that will call police if I suspect you are driving drunk, bet your ass I’ll have no qualms doing it.

But as much as I loath Drunk Drivers, my first objective is to remain safe behind the wheel. That is very hard to accomplish if you are following a suspected DUI while trying to obey the rules of the road and getting information to pass to the authorities at the same time. I am not even including actually talking to the authorities yet because that adds another level of crap to the whole manure cake. With so much going on at the same time, something is bound to suffer in the attention department or the performance department and maybe this was what happened with the case above. Perhaps the Road Samaritan found himself so occupied, he got distracted and ended up in a situation that escalated to the point of death.

So what to do? The following is my technique. I do not claim it to be the best or the most efficient, but it has worked safely in the past. I am assuming you have a cell phone.

Carry a pen. I know, such an archaic instrument in this era of electronic gadgetry. Still nothing beats a pen as a tool to quickly gather basic information. And when I say carry a pen I mean on your person, not in the console or glove compartment. Same as your gun, it has to be where it can be reached without a thought.

Gather information safely. That is get as close to the offending vehicle as to get the following information: License Plate, Color, Make & Model. Priority should be given to the license plate since police can get the rest of the information from the database. Once you have the info, back the hell away from the other car. Once you are separated enough (at least 75 yards IMHO) write the information down. If you don’t have paper or a writing surface, write the license plate either in the inside of your forearm or on top of your hand. I saw this little “trick” used by paramedics and it is the neatest thing since the invention of Post-It.

You must have a Bluetooth/ Hands Free. See? I do favor high tech stuff. I am amazed that in this day and age people refuse to have a Hands Free device to use with their cellphone. Even the damn cars now come with integrated Bluetooth so there is no excuse for you to be without safe communications. The next step is to call 911 and give the operator the required information: “Possible DUI. Blue Prius, license plate XXX-000, Northbound on I-95 between exits 10 & 11 at this time.” Give whatever other information the operator might ask and, if you haven’t disengaged from following mode, do so now. Do notice I said Following and not Chasing. You are not a cop and probably not trained to engage in a chase. You are neither Starsky nor Hutch; stay at a damn safe distance and break away if things get minimally tense at any time. It is bad enough that the possible drunk driver ends up having an accident, but you adding to the festivities with one of your own is downright stupid. Do not follow the offending vehicle till something happens, being either an accident or an arrest. You are to do your civic duty and NOT satisfy your ego.

If I did not make myself clear, here it goes one more time. YOUR FIRST RESPONSIBILITY IS TO BE SAFE.  If you do not feel safe doing any of the above, please don’t.