River of testosterone: On JFX, speed or else

July 21, 1996|By Mike Adams

SOMEONE TRIED to kill me on the Jones Falls Expressway the other day -- not with a gun, but with a raggedy Nissan traveling about 75 mph.

Now a good number of you will think death was appropriate for my crime -- abiding by the speed limit. But I think it was a bit extreme. Getting a single-digit salute was punishment enough, but my assailant, a kamikaze tailgater, also ran me off the road and lured me into a dangerous game of duck'em-and-dodgem that climaxed with a face-to-face encounter on the roadside.

Foolishness like this goes on every day on that river of testosterone known as the JFX. Motorists speed, tailgate, weave in and out of traffic and drive like jerks. So it came as no surprise to me when I read a news article about a roadside fight between a motorist and a motorcyclist. The motorist attacked the motorcyclist with a stick and the motorcyclist took it a away from him and smashed his car's windshield. Boys having fun on the JFX.

Now, the city cops know the JFX has become a free-fire zone, but they aren't doing much about it. I know because I inquired about the lack of a police presence on the JFX after that crazy man tried to kill me.

"We used to have a car detailed to the JFX, but no longer. With the departmental reorganization, the emphasis is on violent crime," Lt. J.D. Smith, head of traffic enforcement told me.

Smith said he was aware that the JFX has become a speedway, but the department has "limited resources" and it does the best with what it has. Speed traps are no longer used on the city portion of the expressway, he said, adding that speeders risk getting snared in State Police speed traps when they cross into Baltimore County.

The problem is most regular users of the JFX know where the State Police are likely to be lurking. They slow down until they clear that area, then they floor it.

On the day I nearly got zapped, I was traveling in the fast line, when I noticed a tailgater in the rear-view mirror. This guy was so close, I thought he was in my car's back seat. Now as a rule, when folks tailgate me that closely, I find it safer to let them pass rather than relinquishing the lane.

I speeded up to pass the car in the middle lane so the tailgater could change lanes and pass me on the right side. But for some reason, the guy in the middle lane pulled abreast of me, effectively boxing in the tailgater, who now had me in front of him, the car in the middle lane beside him and another car tailgating him.

Things continued like this for a couple of miles. The next time I checked the mirror, I saw this guy having a fit behind the wheel. He threw up his hand, then he balled up his fist and shook it at me.

I speeded up again, this time well above the speed limit so I could clear the middle lane traffic and give this guy the fast lane.

But when I speeded up, he speeded up. I hit the accelerator again, and when the distance between us grew great enough, I moved into the middle lane and slowed down.

I expected the guy to pass and when he didn't, I looked into the mirror and discovered his contorted face and shaking fist. I moved back into the fast lane, but this this guy stayed dead on my bumper. This is trouble, I thought -- and I was right.

Finally, he made his move. He swung into the middle lane, and pulled alongside and flipped me the bird. Then he hit the $H accelerator and pulled in front of me.

Whew, it's over, I thought. No way. He slammed on his brakes, which forced me to brake hard and swerve onto the shoulder to avoid rear-ending him.

I got back onto the highway, thinking this demon had gotten his pound of flesh, that he'd leave me alone now. But he tried to run me off the road again. I planned to get off at the Beltway, but somehow he anticipated that, and cut me off at the exit.

That's it, I thought, I've got to see this idiot, say something to him, jab him where he lives. I took off after him and a couple of miles down the road, he pulled to the side and jumped out.

So here I was on the side of the road with the devil, all 5-feet 4-inches of him, weighing in at a strapping 140 pounds.

"What's your problem?" I yelled as I sat in my car, expecting to get showered with expletives.

"You're an unsafe driver, you were impeding the flow of traffic, people like you cause accidents," he replied.

Impeding the flow of traffic: That's not the kind of language I expected; clearly this guy is not stupid, I thought.

"Hey, look, I was doing the speed limit, I don't like to speed."

"The rules of the road say you must move, you must let people get by. The speed limit does not matter; maintaining the flow of traffic is more important. You were impeding the cars behind you, creating a dangerous situation; your license should be revoked," he replied.

"So you're saying, if everyone else is doing 75 and I'm doing the speed limit, 55, I'm a danger."

"Yes, and your license should be taken, you should not be allowed on the roads."

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