A funny thing happened on my way through Dallas last week. I was driving Nelson (my Winnebago Adventurer) through a construction zone on I-635 — an experience I don’t recommend to any driver, let alone someone driving or towing an RV.
For some reason, the department of transportation opted to narrow the lanes as they wound their way around barricades and construction equipment. So, as I was white knuckling my way through the maze in the center lane during rush hour at a speed of about 18 mph, I suddenly heard a loud bang on my right side. I didn’t feel a shudder like I had been hit, so I thought I must have grazed a barrel or barricade.
Then, the truck next to me started honking frantically and flashing his lights. Not knowing what was going on, I went to move over and discovered my right side mirror had been pushed in toward the passenger’s window. That made it impossible to change lanes. Besides, I couldn’t find a place to pull over without stopping in traffic. So I continued on my journey for more than two miles until I found a sliver of shoulder space into which I could gingerly maneuver Nelson. A few rapid honks from cars to my right reminded me that I couldn’t see what was next to me.
Fortunately, they extended me some grace and allowed me to pull over, and the truck pulled in behind me. I exited the RV and moved the mirror back to its original position. There was a small scuff mark on the side, but nothing else was noticeably wrong. So, I walked back to the truck. The passenger rolled down his window and told me I had hit his mirror and cracked his windshield. Sure enough, the windshield had a spiderweb crack in the driver’s side mid section, and his mirror was stuck over that spot.
Well, to me, it was pretty obvious what happened, and the picture attests to my theory. The truck’s extended mirror was a few inches too long for the narrowed lanes of the construction zone. But, the truck driver wouldn’t accept my theory, and he wanted to file a police report.
So, I called 911 to report an accident. Keep in mind that it was rush hour, on an interstate, in a construction zone. You would think that constituted an emergency, especially considering that we were slowing traffic by being parked on the shoulder inches away from the right lane.
One hour passed, then two, then three and even four hours went by waiting for a police officer to show up to take statements and stop traffic so the truck driver could pull his mirror off the windshield and into a position that would allow him to get back on the highway.
I personally called the Dallas Police Department’s 911 center four times, and the truck driver called four or five times himself. I suspect more than one or two cars called to report a truck and RV parked on the shoulder. But, still no cop.
Finally, I asked for a supervisor at the dispatch center, who promised that he would send an officer as soon as they worked through one call ahead of me. A few minutes later, I got a call back to say that an officer had been dispatched. Yet, after another 25 minutes of waiting, no police officer showed up.
I was tempted to call Dunkin Donuts to see if they’d deliver a dozen or so fresh pastries in hopes of enticing any one of the two dozen police officers who passed the RV — or who were parked a block away monitoring traffic — to stop and render assistance. As a former police officer myself, I know that cops can smell donuts even more effectively than dogs can smell pot.
Because we were in a construction zone, eventually, the highway was shut down so work could continue over night. The construction workers allowed the truck driver and I to move to a much safer location. The trucker was able to maneuver his mirror back into position, so we exchanged licenses and insurance information and went our separate ways.
But, the incident taught me a few lessons:
- First, never drive an RV without a box of fresh donuts.
- Second, a dash cam may be worth investigating as something to buy sooner rather than later
- Third, it might be a good idea to have a few flares in a compartment to toss into a traffic lane to ensure other vehicles stay far enough away from my motorhome
- Fourth, I wonder if I had called Coach-Net if they would have had better luck getting a cop to render aid
- Fifth, I wonder if I had gone outside and attached my external cellular antenna, which is hooked to a flag pole, that it would be been suspicious enough to warrant investigation
There are reasons why I got out of law enforcement when I did, and one of which was the writing was on the wall back in the 1980s that police officers were becoming revenue agents of the government. Unless revenue can be associated with a police action, either through a citation or the confiscation of some property that can be resold later, it may become even more difficult than ever for regular folks to get assistance from a police officer. That’s certainly the case with the Dallas Police Department.
The roadside incident I experienced last week varies greatly from my experience driving a dog from Florida to Wisconsin Jan. 28 to 30, when I passed no less than 70 police officers running radar. It was, after all, the end of the month, end of the quarter and end of the year — and performance reviews and bonuses were at stake.
I know it sounds bad to suggest police activity is tied to revenue, but my experience as a former police officer and as a motorist stranded in a construction zone on a busy interstate highway suggests that it may be an ugly truth.