I’ve never been fond of working traffic details—running radar, crash investigations, issuing parking citations, standing in intersections during the pouring rain, wildly waving my arms and hands to send vehicles on their way, all while blasting tweets from a tin whistle, and the like.
Patrol was an assignment I preferred and I suppose that’s because of the diversity of calls. One minute you’re helping an elderly person who’s locked himself out of his house, and the next you’re wading chest deep into a pile of brawling drunks, or searching an abandoned and crumbling warehouse for a murderer on the run.
I suppose one of the major reasons I grew to despise stopping cars due to high rates of speed, recklessness, and the general failing to obey traffic laws was, well, the outright lack of common sense of some drivers. I’ve long thought that Driving While Stupid (DWS) should be included among the many traffic laws in the books.
A motor vehicle, while traveling along the roadways, is basically a great big, fat, projectile that’s just as capable of killing people as any gun. In fact, the chances of survival are perhaps a bit greater when hit by a bullet. Don’t believe it? Try standing in the path of a car roaring at you at 80 mph and see how well you fare when it strikes you, even with a glancing blow. A bullet, on the other hand, may simply pass through a drooping love handle leaving you with nothing more than a couple of stitches.
But let’s back up a bit to stupid drivers. In fact, let’s narrow the category down to distracted-stupid drivers. I once saw a headline in the San Jose Mercury News that read, Woman Painting Toenails Gets First Prize For Distracted Driving. To quote the writer (Gary Richards – Mr Roadshow), “I saw a woman PAINTING HER TOENAILS as she drove eastbound on the 237 freeway. She had her left foot up on the dashboard in front of the A/C vent so the cool, dry air would blow across her toes, and she was painting her toenails as she drove during the afternoon commute.”
And you thought texting while driving was bad!
Toenail painting is definitely not an activity that should take place while driving to work. But this lady is not the only commuter guilty of driving while distracted. I, as well as other police officers, have a ton of “distracted driving” stories we could share, and they’re not all about cellphones. A few of the ones I’ve seen and issued a summons for, include …
- Pouring milk and cereal into a bowl and then eating it while driving in heavy traffic. All while driving beside my marked police car.
- Eating a bowl of ice cream at 75 mph.
- Applying full face makeup with one hand while holding a large mirror in the other.
- Reading a book (the book was propped against the steering wheel). This, at speeds varying from 45 to 80 mph, on a major interstate highway.
- Two nude couples having sex in the same car, while driving at speeds over 60 mph. Yes, the driver was one of the four people in the car.
- One totally nude man … um … enjoying his time alone.
- A man driving his expensive car while a nude woman stood on the seat with a leg on either side of him, with the top half of her body through the sunroof. She smiled and waved at us. I was training a rookie at the time. He was driving when we switched on the blue lights.
- A man wearing a corrections uniform driving a car late at night on a deserted stretch of interstate. His passenger, a totally nude male who was also a corrections officer, was handcuffed to the car door. His uniform was on the backseat in a crumpled pile.
- A teenager sat on the top of the backrest with his upper body through the open sunroof. He was using his feet to drive while a buddy operated the gas and brake from the passenger side. There were four other teens in the backseat, along with a cooler full of cheap beer and a rear floorboard littered with empty bottles.
- A teen driver passed by me doing a little over 100 mph. On each of the passenger window sills (windows down) sat a teen (boys and girls) with their bare rear ends hanging outside for all the world to see.
- A car zipped by me traveling well above the posted speed limit. What really caught my eye was the large German Shepherd behind the wheel. When I stopped the car I was somewhat relieved to see a very small human woman situated behind and beneath her “lap dog.”
- The passenger of a small pickup truck who wore a horse’s head (mask).
- The nude couple having sex in the rear area of an SUV, with back door in the up position. By the way, the description of the back door in the up position fits both the vehicle and one of the parties engaged in the public sexual activity. It was not a pretty sight.
Finally, the day I learned that Santa no longer employed reindeer as part of his holiday staff.
How about you? What’s your worst stupid driver story?
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About Dr. Katherine Ramsland
Dr. Katherine Ramsland teaches forensic psychology at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, where she is the Assistant Provost. She has appeared on more than 200 crime documentaries and magazine shows, is an executive producer of Murder House Flip, and has consulted for CSI, Bones, and The Alienist. The author of more than 1,500 articles and 69 books, including The Forensic Science of CSI, The Forensic Psychology of Criminal Minds, How to Catch a Killer, The Psychology of Death Investigations, and Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, The BTK Killer, she was co-executive producer for the Wolf Entertainment/A&E documentary based on the years she spent talking with Rader. Dr. Ramsland consults on death investigations, pens a blog for Psychology Today, and is writing a fiction series based on a female forensic psychologist.
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