Every once in awhile, while driving on Highway 17, I see motorists do some crazy -- and scary -- things.
Back during the holiday season, I was heading toward Santa Cruz from San Jose when I noticed the driver of a red Dodge Ram-type truck trying his best to get through the modest traffic that polka dotted the highway that day.
All through the winding incline of the Los Gatos hills, he was tailgating and weaving from lane to lane as he slowly made his way to the head of the pack and disappeared around the curve ahead.
When I next saw him near Sugarloaf Road, he was trapped behind two vehicles – a grey Volkswagen Rabbit-type car and a small, white Toyota-esk pick-up truck. The drivers of those two vessels were lingering along side each other, neither one passing the other.
I could see the frustration growing in the red truck’s driver, as I watched him weave from lane to lane, trying to gauge which of the two vehicles was going to pull ahead of the other so he could go around them and continue on his hurried way.
But neither driver budged.
After awhile, the red truck began trying to split lanes, motorcycle-style, to get by the two moving road blocks. He was met with break lights, as the car and truck swerved toward each other, continuing to block his attempts.
Then I blinked. And when my eyes reopened, I saw the red truck dart between the two vehicles. I don’t know if he hit the VW or just angered him, but the car gave chase and they disappeared around the next bend.
I never saw the red truck again, but when I had gotten down to Granite Creek Road in Scotts Valley, the VW was on the side of the road and its driver was walking briskly toward the nearby call-box. The white pick-up pulled up behind it.
I assume they had gotten the truck’s license plate number and were about to call the CHP to report the heart-pounding incident.
Officer Grant Boles, CHP spokesman, said it is unwise and unsafe to engage an enraged motorist.
“We urge people not to put themselves at risk,” he said. “You’ve got to be careful. People (driving aggressive) are already on the brink. If you confront them, it can make them snap.”
Instead, Boles urged motorists to allow more than ample time to reach their destinations.
“Don’t rush,” he said. “If you get cut off, don’t confront the other motorist or give chase.”
Get the offending vehicle’s license plate number, note the location of the offense and call the CHP, he said.
“The CHP will issue a warning letter (to the vehicle’s owner) and their license plate will be added into our database,” Boles said, noting that his office fields road rage-related “calls all day long.”
That database helps the CHP keep track of recklessly driven vehicles, he explained.
“If the vehicle is involved in a collision later down the road, that information will be used against them,” he said.
“We do have certain cars that keep getting reported,’ Boles added. “We had one car doing it all the time. We were getting lots of complaints. We caught him and used (the information in the database) in court when we charged him with reckless driving.”
Do you have a road rage-related story to tell? Share it by posting here or emailing email@example.com. It may be used in a future Monday edition of Street Smarts.