East Central Ohio is known for the twisting, turning state routes that link the county seats, small towns, and rural areas together. There is a particular stretch of State Route 39 that runs through Carroll and Tuscarawas counties that’s enough to make one seasick. A few years ago, my pleasant country drive quickly became a frustrating one as I tried to reach the Dover/New Philadelphia area, traveling west from Carrollton.
Slowest. Truck. Ever.
Somehow, I ended up behind a truck traveling at approximately 40 miles per hour (less on all of the turns) on the 55 mile per hour road. I was younger then and had little patience for this sort of thing. This guy was slowing down to around 20 miles per hour around many of the curves and a crowd had gathered behind me. I was leading the parade and I wasn’t a popular grand marshal.
I finally got the chance to pass the truck on an all-too brief straightaway. I had been waiting for this moment for miles – I had to seize the opportunity. Plus, the truck was speeding up (again to around 40 miles per hour) so if I was going to do this, I was going to do it right.
After signaling my intent, I jumped over to the other side of the road and zipped around the truck. In order to complete the pass and leave the truck plenty of room (and in case anyone else was following my lead), I had to be going at least 65 miles per hour as I pulled back to the right and finished the maneuver.
Worst. Luck. Ever.
I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen a state trooper on Route 39. Apparently today was my lucky day. Just as I had started to slow down – I mean I had literally just completed the pass and was going around the next curve – a trooper passed me in the opposite direction. I knew right away. I glanced at my rearview mirror and saw his brake lights. The trooper was about to turn around on a narrow two-lane highway, come back, and pull me over.
It took him a while to do it. Since I had just finished passing the truck, the trooper (in a twist of fortuitous fate) got stuck behind the same vehicle. In the meantime, I had slowed down to 54, had reached a longer straightaway and was on cruise control. The trooper finally caught up to me and after following me for what seemed like an eternity, turned on his lights and pulled me over.
There are several things one should do when pulled over to ensure both officer and motorist safety. Getting in the good graces of law enforcement doesn’t hurt, either. First, pull over as far as possible or in a safe location in order to show respect for the officer’s safety. I turn off the car and, in low light or at nighttime, turn on my interior dome light and keep my hands at 10 and 2 on the wheel in order to put the officer at ease. These are little gestures of respect for law enforcement, but I’ve been told that they go a long way.
When the trooper approached to speak with me, I think he already knew what my story would be. Flustered, I explained to him that I had just passed the slow moving truck and was trying to put safe distance between us. He nodded and took my license and proof of insurance back to his cruiser to run them through the system.
Why was this so embarrassing for me? As I waited for the trooper to talk with me, my truck driving nemesis lumbered around the curve in the distance, plodded down the straightaway and passed my car. To add insult to injury, every last car in line behind the truck soon followed. It was as if I could feel every pair of eyes staring at me as they passed. It absolutely killed me to think that the driver of that truck was getting the last laugh (and reaching New Philadelphia long before I would) and that he would probably be leading that long chain of cars for the next 10 miles while doing so.
A Happy Ending and Some Good Advice
The trooper came back to my car. He seemed to be suppressing a smile. Polite and professional, he handed my documents back to me and informed me that he was giving me a warning. I had assumed as much, since he didn’t have me on radar and hadn’t paced me at a speed that was in violation of the limit. I wasn’t weaving or behaving erratically, and since he had ended up in the same boat as everyone else that day, I’m pretty sure he was kicking himself for turning around in the first place.
But the trooper also told me something that I hadn’t really thought about and that I’m sure most motorists don’t think much about either. The trooper told me that even when passing, one must remain within the speed limit. In my experience that rule is rarely followed but it’s important to remember, especially when one is on a potentially dangerous two-lane road.
I’ve learned to be more patient these days. I rarely pass other vehicles, preferring a slower speed to the potential for an accident. Although it was an embarrassing moment for me, it has helped me to realize a way in which I need to slow down and drive more courteously in the future.