Life Lessons

While driving home from Kentucky on Sunday I was chatting with Nadine when I suddenly noticed police lights behind me. Since my natural tendency is to slam on the brakes regardless of what speed I’m traveling, I slammed on my brakes and watched him in my rearview mirror.

I looked up in time to notice the highway had come to a complete standstill and I had a couple seconds to take in the scene, notice the cars backing up to cut across in the median, and do the same myself. As I headed for the exit I noticed I happened to be at my favorite outlet mall.

Ironic, no?

I made a couple jokes about it on Facebook but resisted the urge to shop. Instead I ate lunch, checked my nifty phone GPS, figured out a way around what I figured must have been an accident, and went on with my day.

Monday afternoon my coworker mentioned that her parents got stuck in that same traffic for several hours, then found an article describing what happened. I’m pasting the entire thing here because the website doesn’t link specific articles, but I found it on

Rollover Accident On Sunday Called A Case Of “Road Rage”
6/21/10 – A rollover accident involving two vehicles on Sunday along I-96 near Fowlerville Road snarled traffic for hours. The Livingston County Sheriff’s Department says 29-year-old Blair Bradford of Stockbridge was following a 2001 Ford Explorer driven by 38-year-old Eric Figueras of Perry. Preliminary investigation shows that Bradford was traveling behind Figueras in the left lane of westbound I-96 when Figueras tapped his brakes several times and then sped up. Bradford also sped up and says Figueras then hit his brakes hard, causing him to swerve to avoid hitting her. Bradford lost control of his vehicle and subsequently struck Figueras, causing him to also lose control. Both vehicles overturned before coming to rest.

Figueras and his passenger, 48-year-old Gina Bullen of Hartland, were not wearing their seatbelts. Bullen was seriously injured and was transported to the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor. She was reportedly paralyzed at the scene. Sheriff Bob Bezotte tells WHMI that this is a case of road rage that resulted in a serious injury to someone that could have been avoided. Alcohol is not believed to have played a factor and the crash remains under investigation. Figueras was cited for reckless driving. (JM)

After reading the article I realized that I saw these vehicles not five minutes earlier. They were driving so close to each other and so fast that I assumed they must know each other and were just screwing around. They weaved around cars, cutting everyone off, and I couldn’t believe how close they were to the other cars.

I’m telling you this as a reminder to be safe and remember that while we all get frustrated with other drivers, the consequences are too great to risk reacting the way we often want to.

About Melanie Hooyenga

Writer. Designer. Jock. Reader. Wife. Puppy-Mama. SCBWI member since 2015.


  1. bigwords88

    That’s the stuff which terrifies me – idiots deciding that the road is their personal playground and taking out other vehicles. The safety mechanisms in cars these days should be used to their fullest capabilities, and anyone driving without a seatbelt should know that they are placing their life in danger. I have no idea why tighter exams (focusing on personality and temperament) are not included in driving tests – some people shouldn’t have the right to drive in the first place.

    My opinion only; others may see driving as a right, but I see it as a privilege. It’s still scary to read these kinds of news articles, and especially so when I think of how much time my brother drives around with my niece in the car.

    • I wish there was a way to better control that, but then you get into questions of how much the government should regulate, and we all know how that goes. I do agree that the punishments for road rage should be greater.

  2. I agree with bigwords88 that driving is a privilege. In fact, I agree w/everything bigwords88 typed. Well said.

    I’m glad you are okay, Mel. Incidents like the one above are among the reasons I don’t really mind not having a car any more. You be careful out there.

    • I’m glad I didn’t realize until after the fact exactly what had happened. I’ve seen people who drive recklessly get pulled over and that makes me happy, but I’d never wish an accident on anyone.

  3. It’s always everyone else on the roads that scares me. I have my motorcycle license though I don’t currently have a bike, and it is so scary how very little attention most drivers give to bike riders. But it’s not just bike riders, it’s everyone. It’s just that people in cars have more room for things to go wrong than someone on a bike does.

    • On the flip side, I’m terrfied to drive near motorcyclists. I’m always worried I’ll create a draft that’ll knock them over, or that they’ll suddenly swerve into me and I’ll kill them.

  4. mary hart

    Wow! I have seen cars doing that so many times and always wonder when I will see it end up in an accident. One time commuting home I saw a car and a motorcycle speeding up and slowing down, so close to each other, I didn’t know how they were crashing, then passing each other and weaving in and out of commuter traffic. That time I actually called 911 and reported it as I couldn’t believe it wouldn’t end up with someone getting hurt, must likely someone not even involved in the chase or whatever it was they were doing! Personally I think they should put more of the fatality accident pictures in the paper or show them to high school kids. My ex was in the State Patrol and I remember seeing photos that the State Patrol photographers took of some fatality accidents and they were very sobering. I don’t know if it is a reality, but I always wonder with all of the video games and how you crash your, then just go again that in some way people think that will happen in real life.

    • Mary, I agree that they should show more accident photos to beginning drivers. Then maybe as a refresher course to adults.

      I’ve been tempted to call 911 on reckless drivers and I actually saw someone that same day that made me think I should, but it wasn’t these cars.

  5. JLC

    For a while in So. California, people were shooting each other on the freeway. An old college friend told me about a time she forgot to signal before going on a freeway ramp and saw that the person behind her pulled out his gun. I’ve had drivers flip me off because I wasn’t speeding in the slow lane. Drivers are generally MUCH nicer here in Oregon. I feel safer driving on the freeways here, even in a downpour.

    Thanks for posting this!

    • I was always afraid that someone would pull a gun on me in Chicago, and they don’t have drive-bys there. At least not like they had in LA. That’s scary to have that as part of your life.

      On that note, as I drove home from work last night the driver behind me had an arm hanging out the window and for a second I thought he was holding a gun. Apparently Mexico STILL isn’t out of me.

  6. Nadine

    Wow, that’s crazy that you saw the cars a few minutes before! It’s sad when people don’t realize that they are playing with their lives and the lives of others. I wish everyone would drive safer. In 2003, a girl(uninsured) wasn’t paying attention and clipped the back of my car, sending me across 4 lanes of traffic and headfirst into the center divider.

    I grew up driving in the LA traffic, but now I’m out of practice. When I go on trips to LA, I’m nervous on the freeways for the first few days.

      • Nadine

        Fortunately we all walked away with only minor scrapes and bruises, mainly from the airbags. I had some neck issues for a while but I’m great now.

        And I learned to make sure you have uninsured driver insurance. That really saved the day.

  7. Mallory

    You could not have possibly seen the cars invloved in this accident 5 minutes earlier because they were no where near each other until the crash. Please don’t assume things when you do not know the story or circumstance. Glad you were safe and were able to avoid a traffic jam. Hopefully everyone can learn a lesson on paying attention while driving.

    • Hi Mallory, first welcome.

      From your tone I have the feeling you know one of the people involved in the accident, and I’m sorry if that’s the case. But I know what I saw and it was them. That image is burned in my head and the vechicle descriptions match the ones I saw. That’s not an assumption.

      By attacking my comment you kind of missed the whole point of me talking about this, which is to remind everyone to take care when driving. To then reduce it to a comment about me avoiding an inconvenience while others were seriously injured also misses the point.

      Finally, I’ve been in situations where I”ve certainly been angry at other drivers and one instance of tapping the brakes does not infuriate someone enough to have this kind of reaction. Maybe they told the police that the only interaction was right before the accident, but I DON’T believe that. And that’s based on my life experience and common sense.

      • Mallory

        Hi, I’m sorry if my tone came off stern. I did not know anyone in the accident but I did see it from begining to end and neither of the vehicles ever weaved through traffic. Once they interacted, they never left their lane. Road rage, if that’s in fact what happened, is very scary… for everyone on the road, whether
        directly involved or not. Bottom line with this unfortunate accident, one driver cut another off then slammed on their brakes and they all lost
        control. It all happened incredibly fast. It should be a reminder to us all to be courteous and alert on the road. Again, I’m glad you and your friend were not involved, and I apologize again for my tone.

    • sis

      Hi Mallory,
      I am hoping you can help a friend of mine. They were involved in the Fathers Day accident, my friend is paralized from the chest down. The favor that I’m praying you can help with is…They say there were no wittnesses! Someone out there had to have seen it! Either way I’d like to hear it first hand. They gave the driver of the front car ( Bullen’s) a reckless driving ticket. He’s her primeary care giver she needs someone 24-7. The state is trying to put him in jail for road rage 1-5 years! They still say they were not at fault. I have been friends with her since grade school, I know she would tell the truth. She is just always been that kind of person! So I’m begging and pleading if anyone knows what happened please contact her and help her out! It’s bad enough that she is paralized, now they have to deal with this. They have no money to afford a lawyer so they are hopeless unless we have a wittness to help! Thank You!

  8. Mallory, the newspaper article says they were traveling BEHIND each other.

    Honestly, people get so mad about this. Near where I live, there was a man who got so mad at someone who didn’t have his headlights on or something that he took a crossbow and shot the person.

    It’s just not worth it.

    • I’m a little boggled that someone was traveling with a crossbow… yikes! I had someone in Mexico get out of his car and run at me but I was able to drive around him and flee without anything happening. I have no doubt he would have either punched me or my car if I’d stuck around.

  9. robinaltman

    That’s so sad and terrible. I can’t believe my kids are going to drive soon. I need to remind them to apologize profusely to any nut job they piss off.

  10. Eeek. I’m one of those people who, if someone is up on my butt, will tap my brakes. I’d rather scare them now then have an accident later. If that doesn’t work, I slow way-the-heck down until they put at least two car lengths between us. Space between cars is the law for a reason, and if s/he’s acting all crazy then I’m going slow enough to reduce the risk of the accident they cause being horrible.

    • Natasha, I tap my brakes too, but I keep my foot on the gas so I don’t cause an accident. And I get so mad when I have a little bit of space between me and the car in front of me and some jerk decides he needs to drive right there. Grr.

  11. Sis

    Did you know that if you tap your brakes, they consider it road rage? I do know people that were injured in this accident. Yes, they were wrong for not wearing there seatbelts. If you and your readers did see how this happen, please go to the proper authorities. My best friend is currently paralyzed from the chest down. We are praying that movement comes back. Her head is held high as she prays to regain movement. This might be a good topic for your book. Research and help because the person who caused this accident is getting away with it. If you saw it please do the right thing! Please pray for Gina. Thanks, God Bless

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