George Worthy

“Hi honey, how is it going?” My bride and the lady that makes life worthwhile for me walked over from the front door and gave me a peck on the cheek as she headed on into the kitchen. I could feel my heart skip a little as it always does when she returns from just about any trip she takes, but especially when she goes on Highway 101 to Salinas from Gonzales and back.

This is just about the most traveled road in Monterey County and it is one of the things that causes me to stop and say a little prayer every time any of my loved ones travels upon this overcrowded thoroughfare. When my children were young and we traveled three times a week to go up and take tae kwon do classes. 

Whether it was early or late, I tried to get them to understand how long it takes to stop a vehicle that is traveling at highway speeds. As I talked to them, another car passed on the right. “This guy will get to Salinas within seconds of when we get there, but he is taking a big chance to go faster when the road is filled with farmworkers and overcrowded trucks and trailers, as people are off work and just want to get home and relax.” I added, “They are tired from working in the hot sun and do not understand the physics involved in stopping a 4,000-pound car traveling faster than the posted speed limit of 65 miles per hour.”

I told them the story, once again, of three sheriff’s deputies leaving from Salinas Airport. One car was traveling “Code Three.” That is lights and sirens. Another left 30 seconds later and he was following the posted speed limit obeying all the traffic laws. The third deputy went as fast as safety and common sense required. “All three cars arrived at the destination within seconds of each other even though they left 30 seconds apart.”

Both my boys said, “Hey dad, you have told us that about 10 times.” “Yeah, and I’ll tell you again until you understand that speeding is not the answer to arriving at your destination.” As I was speaking, a car passed us on the right and pulled in about 20 feet in front of me, causing me to have to hit the brakes on my car. “Do you think that the person driving that car will be happy to arrive within seconds of us, although he violated about three different sections of the California Vehicle Code?” I didn’t look at them, but I’m sure they were rolling their eyes at me.

So why am I sitting here preaching to you about speeding or lane switching or really anything about cars? Yeah, I can dig that. What is my expertise that does that for you to read? Well, a friend of Lorraine’s came by as I was sitting down at my desk to write all the news fit to read and her friend asked if we had seen the internet story about the six people killed in a car crash in L.A. 

When we told her no, she set up her iPad and showed the video. It was very difficult to watch. A woman for whatever reason came barreling through an intersection at a speed that precluded her being able to control her car and ran into the rear of a couple of cars and killed six people. I don’t know how many were injured, but six dead was enough to know.

I was thrown back many years to a night in Fayetteville, N.C., in 1969. I was coming to a four-way intersection on my motorcycle. Just as I put down my left foot, a car right beside me was pushed by a collision into the intersection, where they were hit right in the passenger side and spun around, and then hit again by another car coming in the opposite direction. I had both feet on the pavement by then, but I was so scared that I almost dropped my bike. 

I just sat there for a moment and hit the kill switch and put down my kickstand. All the traffic had stopped and I just sort of rolled over to the right side of the road and kept saying, “Thank you, Lord.” I don’t know if anyone died, but it would have been hard to not have at least one. I didn’t ride my bike for a while. It kept coming back to me about the crash. The doctor I saw said it was my PTSD acting up, but I think it was just that I was scared.

I’m going to ask each of you to slow down and try to leave early if possible. There are more cars than ever before, and they all think the speed limit is faster than they are going, but it’s not. It’s only going to get worse. Be particularly aware as you approach any of the roads meeting Highway 101. If we can get a month without a crash at any of the roads, it will be a miracle. 

I gave up riding my motorcycle because of the increase in vehicles and their proclivity to turn left in front of my bike. The most common refrain an officer receives when he asks why the car turned in front of me is, “I just didn’t see him!” The second most heard excuse is, “I thought he would stop.” Our most precious cargo will be on the street and riding in cars very soon. Follow all the signs because you cannot make a mistake. They are the future. Please be careful out there and remember to slow down.

God Bless.

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Gonzales columnist George Worthy may be reached at [email protected].


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