Beltway driver gets brake during rush-hour rescue

Trooper eases cruiser in front of woman who couldn't stop car

April 22, 2000|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Tfc. Gregory J. Hahn was inching along in rush-hour traffic on Interstate 695 in Towson Wednesday afternoon when he noticed a car traveling in the shoulder next to the fast lane.

Probably someone trying to sneak around traffic, the state trooper remembers thinking.

What started out as an apparent traffic violation turned into a rescue, however, as Hahn realized that the driver of the 1993 Nissan Sentra had lost control of her car and was approaching barriers marking a construction site.

"There was some pretty heavy traffic, and there were some barrels that were closing off the shoulder," Hahn said yesterday. "She wasn't stopping, and I could tell she was getting pretty frantic."

The car didn't stop because its brakes had failed.

The driver, Audrey G. Gamble of Baltimore, waved at Hahn when she realized he was following her. Hahn could see the reflection of Gamble's wide eyes in her rearview mirror and knew she was in trouble.

"I was so scared," Gamble said yesterday. "That has never happened to me before. I wanted to stop the car. I didn't want to cause an accident."

Although he'd never been trained in how to stop a moving vehicle, Hahn followed his instincts and pulled his cruiser in front of the Nissan, which he estimates was traveling at 10 to 15 mph.

As he slowed, Gamble's sedan tapped his cruiser's bumper. Hahn used his vehicle's brakes to ease them both to a stop.

Safe at last, Hahn approached Gamble's car. The 52-year-old Baltimore woman was trembling but unhurt. She thanked him and explained that her brakes -- her car is outfitted with a hand brake instead of a brake pedal -- were gone.

Gamble did the right thing, said Hahn. In such a situation, it's best to get to a shoulder, put the vehicle in neutral and apply the emergency brake, he said.

Gamble, who has multiple sclerosis, said she couldn't reach her emergency brake. "I was too afraid to take my hands off the hand brake and the steering wheel. I didn't know what the car was going to do."

Gamble said she had her car's brakes checked two weeks earlier. She believes the problem may be with her hand brake and that Hahn saved her life.

Back on Beltway duty yesterday, Hahn, 27, who has been a state trooper for three years, was reluctant to take credit for the rescue. "It really wasn't a big deal," he said.

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