Holiday traffic (copy)

Southbound post-Christmas traffic crawls along I-95 near the Courthouse Road exit in Stafford.

AFTER experiencing some frustrating car travel through the region lately, it’s time for a road warrior column.

I’ll start with the reminder that we all need to adjust our thinking about how long it takes to get out of town.

Years ago, I’d simply calculate how long it should take to get where I was going and adjust my leaving time accordingly.

Not anymore. These days, there’s a new part to the calculation: the time it takes to simply get out of Fredericksburg.

Admittedly, this comes into play more if you’re heading west or north, but at certain times of day, you now have to add from 10 to 30 minutes to your travel time regardless of where you’re heading.

This came into play Saturday as my wife and I drove to Charlottesville. We left home at 1:30 p.m., heading west on State Route 3 through a sea of Saturday traffic.

Looking down when the odometer told me we’d traveled four miles, the clock hit 1:55.

It reminded me of a similar trip on Route 3 on a Friday night, when it took nearly 40 minutes to cover the same vehicle-jammed stretch of road.

Hey, I’m glad the area is getting new stores, restaurants and nice neighborhoods. But nothing comes without a price, and gridlock is increasingly becoming our new normal at certain times of day.

Oh, well, it’s a good excuse for when I’m 15 minutes late.

On a more serious note, what really scares me is the really crazy driving I witness now and then.

I’m not talking about folks who are just in too much of a hurry, though there are too many drivers putting us all at risk by zigging and zagging through traffic on crowded roadways simply to get home a few minutes earlier.

No, I’m talking about scary moves like one I saw on the way home from Charlottesville on a night when rain and fog were already making the trip a little dicey.

I was two cars behind a kamikaze driver, who got so tired of having to drive the speed limit that he pulled his truck out to pass, despite an oncoming car just ahead. The crazy driver screeched into and back out of the opposing lane, just missing the oncoming car, which had to hit the brakes hard and pull to the side of the road to avoid a collision.

And why? Just so the speeding idiot could move up one place in a long line of cars going down the highway. Underscoring the futility of the move: the crazy driver’s car ended up sitting just four or five feet ahead of the passed car at the next stoplight.

And while moving about last Friday, there were not one, not two, but three instances when I was glad I looked down the road before passing through a traffic light.

Each time, cars came through red lights and could have hit me had I taken off quickly when my light turned green.

I confess there are times when I’m in a hurry and go late through a yellow light, sometimes looking up to see a light turn red as I pass under it.

But what’s really scary is that I’ll look back and often see two or three cars behind me, all of them speeding through the red light. So don’t always trust a green light to keep you safe around here.

There’s one habit on the highways I’m not sure I’ll ever understand: the driver who’s pulling out onto the road in front of me. And though he or she clearly sees me coming, they somehow wait and wait and wait to actually pull out: doing so when I get close enough to make things a little scary.

Why not go ahead and pull out when I’m 100 yards away and the way is clear? I don’t get why waiting until I’m 20 yards away is the move these drivers go with.

And don’t even get me started on people with their face in their phones or their phones glued to their ear as they fly down the highway. Is the discussion or what they’re reading really worth dying for?

And then the other day, I saw someone pulling onto the Interstate 95 on-ramp with a book propped up on the car’s dash.

In that instance, I was happy to be heading down a crowded Route 3 instead of riding next to that particular crazy driver heading up I–95.

I can only imagine what you road warriors who face that commute every day see in a week’s or month’s time.

If you are one of them or have your own crazy driver stories to share, email them to me at rhedelt@freelancestar.com.

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415

rhedelt@freelancestar.com

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