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Let's not become roadkill
Do you know what to do if your vehicle breaks down on an interstate highway? Avoid trouble and plan ahead.

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Date published: 4/21/2004


IT'S THE MONDAY after Easter, and I'm cruising down Inter- state 95 toward Fredericksburg about 6:30 p.m. Traffic is heavy but steady, despite a pouring rain.

Just as I leave Stafford County and cross the Rappahannock River bridge, my pickup truck suddenly loses power. The lights on the dashboard flash momentarily, and then everything shuts down.

Now, I'm coasting to a stop on the right shoulder of the highway.

Did I mention the pouring rain? I thought so, because now I'm dead in the water--literally.

I notice the entire population of the civilized world seems to be buzzing past my window. There are all shapes and sizes of vehicles filled with happy people following the same route that leads me home after workdays in North Stafford.

Then it hits me. I've become one of THEM!

You know who I mean--those poor fools we always see stranded along I-95, usually accompanied by a long traffic backup.

Initially, we might feel a hint of sympathy for THEM. But then, from somewhere deep in our human carburetor, comes that loud voice that only we can hear, telling us what we would like to be shouting to THEM from our car window:

"You idiot! Why didn't you pay attention to what you were doing? Why didn't you take better care of your car? Don't you know that all of us have better things to do than slow down for you?"

But the world looks different when you are sitting in a disabled vehicle on the shoulder of I-95.

At this point, I should explain that I'm one of the half-dozen or so people in Stafford County who almost never uses a cell phone. I have one, but mine spends so much time asleep in my truck's console that the batteries are invariably dead when I try to use it.

So, while I'm digging out the phone, I'm also thinking about a backup plan.

Should I get under the hood and try to solve the problem? Should I stay in the truck and just wait? Or should I try to walk to the Virginia Welcome Center about a half-mile up the hill? (I already mentioned the rain, right?)

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