Damn…lightning almost struck us twice.
Back in December 2019, we were towing our fifth-wheel trailer out of Glen Rose, Texas on a two-lane highway. We were exiting the highway to the left (there was no left-turn lane) with our left turn signal on when a semi hauling a cattle trailer tried to pass us in the no-passing zone leading up to the turnoff. In the process, the other vehicle sheared off the left side of our 2012 Ford F-450, bending both outer wheels and shredding the tires. The trailer also pulled the nose cap of our trailer loose, slicing several horizontal gashes through it and the left front quarter of our trailer.
Cheryl, who was driving, brought the rig to a safe stop. Our dashcam captured this video of the accident:
Two Texas Department of Public Safety troopers were quickly on the scene and interviewed several witnesses before citing the other driver for failing to allow a sufficient distance to pass. Fortunately, nobody was injured. But the truck driver’s insurance company ended up paying for more than $30,000 in damages and related expenses, and we were out of our home for five weeks while it was repaired.
Then yesterday, I was the one driving our rig, this time on a two-lane highway in northeastern New Mexico. I had slowed down to about 10 miles per hour with my left turn signal on as I looked for the entrance to a roadside parking area, where we planned to take a stretch break. Just as I began to turn into the driveway, Cheryl shouted as a tractor-trailer barreled past us from behind in the left lane…followed, incredibly, by a passenger car that had apparently decided to follow the impatient truck driver. Both had to swerve around our rig to avoid hitting us, as we had already started to cross the centerline.
Here again, there was a no-passing zone in our lane, obviously for the specific purpose of protecting traffic turning left into the parking area. Using Google Earth, I later measured the distance from the start of the solid yellow line in our lane to the spot where we were turning. That distance was about 950 feet. In other words, both the semi and the car attempted to pass our rig well into a clearly-marked no-passing zone, and at a time when it should have been obvious to both drivers that we were planning to turn left across the opposite-direction traffic lane.
Only a bit of lucky timing saved us from another accident. With our nerves a bit frayed, we turned into the parking area and gathered our wits before continuing on our way.
I’m sharing this story to make two points. First: no-passing zones are placed where they are for a reason, even though it may not be immediately obvious to you as a driver. If there’s a solid yellow line in your lane when you start to pass, or you can’t complete the pass and return to the correct travel lane before the solid yellow line begins in your lane, your maneuver is illegal and you are risking a collision and serious injury.
And second: when you’re turning left from the travel lane of a two-lane highway, always check your left-side mirror for passing traffic before you cross the centerline. This shouldn’t be necessary, and your focus would ordinarily be on oncoming traffic rather than on vehicles that might be passing you illegally. But as we’ve now learned from experience, this defensive driving technique could save you from the hassle of repairs from a collision–or possibly, something much worse.