Howdy! I have been having an increasingly difficult time out on the roads as I see more and more “crazy things” happening. The latest thing that keeps seeming to happen is, people merging onto freeways at incredibly low speeds. I mean usually below or around 45mph onto a freeway where traffic is doing 70-80mph. This happens almost every day, so I have tried to find ways to work around it. Usually this just involves slowing up to give the person space so they can “get onto the freeway” without causing too much of a disaster. But, this is getting old.
Usually the person will end up speeding past, often one hand on a phone, a couple miles down the freeway. It’s as if they use the onramps to compose their messages, and once they click “send” they are on their way, but of course I have no idea why people really do this. I see this as dangerous behavior on many levels, because first of all, merging at such a speed differential causes problems for everyone involved, and there is no reason for it.
I have only had a few close calls, usually in the same place getting onto HWY 280 Southbound at a place where you merge onto a downhill section where drivers are frequently speeding. These close calls have been as the result of a person in front trying to merge at around 40mph. The last time I can clearly remember this, there was a large tractor-trailer in the slow lane on his air horn. Thankfully there was enough room for me to allow the tractor-trailer to pass before I merged, and I thought I was going to see the “slow merger” get crushed, but after a few swerves into freeway traffic they seemed to get it under control. Two weeks prior to this, I was about 4 cars back and again thought I was going to witness a pretty major collision. I watched as a “freeway speed” pickup truck essentially blasted through the merging cars that had to be doing at least 30mph less than the pickup. Strangely, there was no collision.
Drivers speed through that section so frequently that there is occasionally a CHP officer right at the bottom with his gun pointed at the hill. This makes the merging situation slightly safer, due to another annoying phenomenon on the roadways where people slow to well below the speed limit, often abruptly, upon sight of a CHP officer. So, this way with the nominal traffic down to a much lower 50-60, the people merging at 40mph will not be as big of a problem.
Today, I was getting onto HWY 92 Westbound, behind a car that seemed to be doing around 35mph as it went up the on-ramp. There was no traffic in front of the car, nor ahead on the freeway. There was a fairly large truck coming along in the merging lane of the freeway, but it was far back enough not to cause concern – unless the driver intended to merge at this current speed. I sped up a little, but of course not adequately as I did not want to get too close to the car in front of me. I did not get too close, but apparently the driver thought I did, as he hit his brakes twice, hard and abruptly, just before merging onto the freeway. Thankfully I was able to swerve to avoid his offering for a collision. I could see that he was flipping me off behind me, and then sped up right on my bumper, while holding a phone to his head. So, I assume I was also reported to CHP for whatever reason by this person.
After motoring along for a bit with this guy behind me, I decided to pull off the freeway and call it in. So, after merging onto 280 North, I pulled to the side of the road and put my hazards on. At this same exact time, I got a call on my work phone from my boss, so I answered it. As I was on the phone, a CHP officer pulled over another driver and ended up right behind me. I finished my call, and waited for the officer in my car, thinking “how convenient, a CHP officer, I can just explain the situation to him.” I think I will remember this as the last time I felt good seeing a CHP officer.
The officer came to my car, where I had the passenger window down, my keys on the dash, and my hands on the wheel – as I always do in an effort to make the officer feel safe. He asked me what the issue was, and as I began to explain, he interrupted me saying that it was illegal for me to be parked there since this was not actually an emergency, and he could cite me for that. I explained that I did not know that, thanked him for the information, and proceeded with my explanation. I included the part about my work call, and this seemed to upset the officer. He interrupted me again, asking why I waited so long and drove so far before calling this in, and I had not even bothered to call it in yet. I explained to him that being in situations like this is not an everyday thing for me, and as I thought about what I should do, I ended up driving around 2 miles to this location. He then went on to say that I was probably tailgating the other driver and that I do not have the right of way when merging onto the freeway. I explained that I did not say or imply that I had thought I had the right of way, and in fact I was behind the car that was merging onto the freeway.
Each time the officer asked me a question, he belligerently interrupted me in the middle of my answer, with an accusation of wrongdoing. I did also interrupt him once, and he got really mad and said that he was not going to waste his time talking to me if I was not even going to listen. So, I smiled, folded my hands, and let him finish. At this point, it was pretty apparent that there was not going to be any positive anything coming from this experience. He continued to explain that I was probably tailgating the driver, which led him to brake check me upon merging and that it was my responsibility to just stay back and let the merging driver do whatever they are going to do. He said it does not matter “what speed” the person merging onto the freeway is going. I questioned this, based on the fact that his own department has determined that a speed differential is one of the most dangerous things on the roadways, and I had just explained that this driver was creating at least a 20mph speed differential before he brake-checked me twice and then held a phone to his head for two miles while tailgating me.
He did not have a response for my comment about speed differential, and he quickly said that is not what he said, and that he was done wasting his time with me “since I just wanted to argue” with him. He asked me what I expected him to do about this.
I said that I did not think there was anything that could be done – I had hoped to speak to him to get some advice, and he had pulled up behind me as I was sitting by the side of the road finishing a call before calling in the other driver. I thanked him for his “advice” and he said something flippant about how he was going to watch to see how safely I merged onto the freeway now.
I understand that while this man was in a CHP suit, he does not necessarily represent the whole of CHP. I will admit that my experiences with CHP have never really been positive, but I come away from this thinking that this guy could have said something like “yeah that sucks but you need to watch out for that, and you shouldn’t park here when not in an emergency because it’s dangerous/illegal. Be safe out there.” I would have been on my way. I understand that he must face people like me, presenting a one-sided event that has no apparent solution and is most likely wildly biased.
That being said, this man single-handedly removed the last shred of respect that I had for these people (people dressed in CHP suits). I am so sick and tired of dealing with drivers being offensively unsafe on the freeways out there. To have one of those experiences, and then have this fellow basically shouting at me in blind “devil’s advocate” defense over the latest person who just tried to cause me to crash, is immensely depressing.
I have heard people mention that “there are no rules” and “it’s just a game” and stuff like that. I have been a hard and fast follower of the rules because it’s these rules that allow us to rely on each other and be safer out there on the roads. I have seen issues where people do not follow the rules as “a problem” but, after this conversation with this CHP officer, I see the point of people who say there are no rules. Honestly it’s not just him, I guess he was just the straw that broke my camelbak. I see that it really does not matter if I am following the rules or not, and of course the concept of “never talk to an officer” has also been reinforced. At this point, I am just going to do my best to not let any fools crash into me, and keep CYA protocol in mind at all times. I will not see CHP as what they are supposed to be, but rather, a team of well armed bullies that defend people who drive dangerously when it is convenient/fun for them, on behalf of the State.
Icing on the cake, someone nearly drove straight into the side of my car as I was turning, in the left-hand side of a double-right hand turn lane as he simply decided to merge into my spot in the middle of the turn. I guess it’s time for a bigger car and louder horns.
TL;DR: I pulled over to call CHP based on an experience on the highway, a CHP officer conveniently showed up behind me so I talked to him instead, he reinforced everything I have heard about CHP being basically useless ass-holes.