Look Out!

I already know that I’m walking on thin ice with today’s pet peeve.  But please hear me out before you get angry.  One thing that irritates me on the road is when I see a motorcyclist with a “Look Out For Motorcycles” sticker…  Wait!  Let me finish!… and that same motorcycle is weaving in and out of traffic!

Unlike when I lived in New York and motorcyclists only cycled a few months out of the year, down here in Florida, there’s never a time that motorcycles are not prevalent.  And at least four times a week, if not more often, I witness motorcycles speeding, whipping around cars, passing two lanes by driving on the yellow line, riding on the shoulder when traffic is otherwise stalled, or commencing in any number of other unsafe activities.

Believe me, I’m all about safe driving.  I’ve shared with you before, when I was a paralegal, it was my job to catalog and file the most gory accident photos, so I’m quite familiar with how horrific carelessness can be.  Additionally, I’ve personally known people who have died on motorcycles.  However motorcycle drivers need to use caution as well.  Some people might even go as far as to say that the cyclist chose to ride a dangerous vehicle, so they knew the potential for risks when they signed on.  I’m not even saying that.  But I feel like the inordinate amount of stickers that warn auto drivers to look out for them is supposed to let the cyclist off the hook if there’s an accident.

Once when I was seventeen, I was driving somewhere, roughly 30 miles away.  I had to take the interstate to get there.  My car at the time was a Dodge Charger, and it had locks that were in the middle of each door and twisted rather than the kind that stuck up out of the door and you pushed down.  You also could not lock the passenger door by simply pushing a button on the driver’s door.

I was driving roughly 60 MPH along the interstate, minding my own business, when I happened to look in the rear view mirror and saw a motorcycle weaving in and out of cars behind me.  The driver (who I would guess was near 30) was beating on car windows as he passed people, and laughing wildly.  Something in me told me to lock my doors NOW!  I had a difficult time reaching over and locking the passenger door and rolling the window up (manually) as I drove, but no more than two seconds after I got the door locked and the window up, the motorcyclist sped up to my car.  He looked in and started beating on the passenger’s window.  I screamed which caused him to laugh wildly.

He stayed with me like glue for over five minutes, beating on my window and yelling and laughing at me.  I was terrified!  A couple of times he tried yanking on the door handle to get it open.  Thank God I locked it!  I tried slowing way down, but he just slowed with me, literally hanging on to the side of my car and laughing the entire time.  I tried speeding way up to the point I felt as if I would soon lose control of the car.  I looked in the rear view, and the cars behind me had all slowed way down (I’m sure to stay away from this dangerous jerk!) and were nowhere near me any longer.  Of course this was the late 80s (a/k/a/ the old days before cell phones), so there was no way I could summon help.  I was crying and screaming hysterically the entire time, and I think that just made the dude more intent on terrorizing me further.

At one point, we went over an overpass, and I actually considered swerving and forcing him over the side, which could have killed him, and frankly could have injured me as well.  I’ve been in other dangerous situations both before and after this incident, but there has never been another time when I actually seriously considered taking another human life.  But despite being so scared, I at least had enough sense to realize something:  I knew if I did that, I’d have to stop and wait for the police, and that if by chance he wasn’t dead but only injured, he would likely kill me with his bare hands while I waited.

So as I screamed and tried to maintain control of my car, it was a full six minutes before he got tired of me and rode up to the car in front of me and bullied them.  My whole body shook as I tried to calm myself down enough to get to where I was going because there was no way I was going to pull over long enough to regain my composure.  So I maintained a steady speed and tried to suck back all my tears, and I witnessed the maniacal motorcyclist reach in the window of yet another car and pull out a woman’s purse and hold it triumphantly over his head before he sped off yet again.

Ever since that day, I never got into my car without first locking the doors, and of course, nowadays cars automatically lock when you reach 10 MPH. (And speaking of that, maybe someday I’ll tell you about one or both of the times someone has forced their way into my vehicle, which were also terrifying.)  But at any rate, yeah, every time I see a “Look Out For Motorcycles” sign or sticker, and/or I see cyclists weaving in and out of traffic, I relive that horrendous experience in my head, and it makes me angry with the irresponsible motorcycle drivers who act like they’re impervious to the law as well as the rules of the road and proper driving etiquette.

So to be clear, I have absolutely no problem with motorcycles and cyclists… who obey the same traffic laws that I do.  And, yes, I will look out for them.  But they also need to look out for themselves.

Talk to me:  Do you ride a motorcycle?  If so, do you obey traffic laws when you ride?  Have you ever witnessed a motorcyclist doing anything like what I described above as far as messing with cars?  What would you have done if you were me?

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