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A close encounter with a wrong-way drunk driver

Published August 9, 2012
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I have taken the keys away from friends and strangers when I have encountered someone who is noticeably intoxicated.

These incidents put me in a very awkward position of having to avoid a direct confrontation and sometimes violence with the driver, but their level of impairment made staying away from them fairly easy. In most cases a call to the police was made. In another it was for a taxi.

But back in the 1990s, I was almost a potential victim of an intoxicated wrong way driver on Hwy. 404.

I was driving northbound on Hwy. 404 around Hwy. 7 one dark winter morning. In those days Hwy. 404 was still only two lanes north and two lane southbound. Traffic was very light and I noticed southbound cars were flashing their highbeams. This is usually a warning of a speed trap up ahead but this was much too early for that. My next thought was there is something happening up ahead that is out of the ordinary. Be prepared.

I was driving in the right lane as usual and another northbound vehicle was just starting to pass me when we came up over the crest of a hill.

Then there it was, another vehicle coming southbound in our lanes directly at us, head on at high speed.

I drove off onto the shoulder as smoothly as possible. It was winter and there was still some snow and ice on the shoulder. The car that was passing me swerved into the lane I was in and the southbound drunk driver missed both of us and continued south.

The report I heard later that day was the drunk driver made it all the way down to Finch Ave. where he drove head on into a tanker truck and was killed instantly.

If I had been distracted at that time, this incident would have involved the three vehicles including mine with much more serious consequences. I may not have survived to be able write about this.

Drunk driving is very serious. Everyone should do their part to try to prevent friends, family or even strangers from driving while impaired. This can range from a simple phone call to police or calling OPP to report suspected drunk drivers to taking the keys away from the drunk driver. Which ever suits the occasion and your safety. It is important we try to do something to stop or limit the impaired motorists driving.

Should you encounter a drunk driver on the roads, call OPP on your hands free by dialing *OPP (*677) and report their location, description and licence number if possible. When possible, have your passenger call so you can focus on your driving.

If you meet a drunk driver coming at you head on, slow down and steer smoothly off onto the shoulder of the road. In a panic situation, steering to the right shoulder is usually safer. The oncoming driver will mostly steer to their right too.

To help you survive this situation, it is important that you look where you want to go and not at the drunk driver and steer smoothly to make this avoidance manoeuvre successful.

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