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Steve Hansen: DUIs cause inconvenience — and sometimes danger — for those stuck at crash sites

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Posted: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 12:00 am

In last week’s Lodi News-Sentinel, Kris Anderson reported a story about a major accident on Highway 99. Guess who was behind that disaster by just a few cars?

It was calm, sunny Sunday morning, and thought I’d make a quick trip to Costco. I had just pulled onto the southbound freeway from Turner Road and soon realized my mistake. All cars had come to stop. Up ahead, near the next exit, I could see the commotion.

Perhaps sneaking by on the shoulder and catching the next turnoff would be an option. It was only a few hundred feet away. But that escape route was blocked as well.

According to the California Highway Patrol, a suspected DUI driver lost control of his SUV while traveling at a probable high rate of speed. He rolled off the embankment. Two young men without seatbelts were thrown from the vehicle. Another remained in the silver GMC, which landed on its roof. The ejected passengers were thought to have major injuries. A second vehicle was involved trying to avoid the mishaps of the first.

I didn’t have a lot of sympathy for the apparent stupidity that had just taken place. But I did feel empathy for the many around me whose lives were now temporarily disrupted. A helpless feeling emerged. We were all trapped. All directions were blocked. The only option was to sit and wait. It could be for minutes or perhaps hours. The future was unknown.

Anxiety and anger began to take hold. “If only I had gone though town instead of the freeway, I wouldn’t be in this mess!” I thought. “This is so unfair for a 10-minute trip.”

I considered those with special needs in the hundreds of cars behind me. It was an exceptionally cold morning. Cars were idling in hope that their occupants would stay warm.

I also thought about folks with bladder or incontinence issues who had no access to facilities. What would happen if someone had a medical emergency? There would be delayed — or no — help for a heart attack victim. That innocent person might die because of the moronic behavior that had just taken place.

But stupidity didn’t just reign up front. A few behind me suffered from a few missing neurons as well. One person tried to back up on the shoulder and somehow get onto the last freeway entrance. Another “genius” turned his truck around on the divider and tried to head back on the shoulder in the wrong direction! They were both immediately met by emergency vehicles trying to arrive on the scene. Eventually, a CHP car was assigned to prevent further acts of foolishness.

Fortunately, the CHP, Lodi Police Department and other emergency crews moved fairly quickly. Within an hour, traffic began to flow in single file around the mishap.

Of course, I am very thankful for one thing: A few seconds earlier, I could have been right in the middle of this mess.

But still, I wish the “victims” of this rollover a full recovery — courtesy of thousands in taxpayer dollars.

It seems that no matter how many millions of hours are spent educating people about the dangers of intoxicated driving, there will always those self-centered and careless individuals who will never, under any circumstances, heed that warning.

As my daughter regularly says: “You can’t fix stupid.” I guess this accident is just another example that proves her frustrating and undeniable point.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

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