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If you haven't heard of the McMissile incident, here's a brief primer.

A woman is driving north on Interstate 95. Three kids squirm in the back seat, and her sister, six months pregnant and having early contractions, sits in the front. The stress starts to simmer. Traffic slows, then crawls, then creeps. More stress. A car cuts in front of her, then scoots away. A short time later, it darts in again. She can no longer take it. She veers onto the shoulder and speeds up. Wham! She tosses a large McDonald's cup filled with ice into the other car.

The woman is also the wife of an American Soldier on his second tour in Iraq, the family gets food stamps, and she was recently accepted to nursing school. And the end result of this conflict? A two-year felony conviction.

Whether she would have received a two-year sentence if she was white, driving a Mercedes, etc., I'll leave that up to speculation.

The real problem here is that we have a court system and, indeed, a legal system, that punishes traffic reactions, and not traffic actions. Yesterday, while driving my mother home from the airport, a car leaped out in traffic in front of us, causing me to slam on my brakes. I laid on the horn. The car, with out of state plates and a "Believe" Christian sticker in the back, then proceeded to hit their brakes, nearly causing me to slam into the back of them. The guy, of course, was on his cell phone, too.

If I had hit this car after he had merged into my lane and when he applied his brakes (despite a lack of traffic in front of him), I would have been at fault. And, apparently, if I'd thrown a cup of ice into his lap, I would be facing a two-year jail sentence.

In many ways, in politics, in business, and even in traffic laws, America rewards the provokers and punishes the reactors. Preemptive war is welcomed, those protesting it are spurned. Deciding to tap phones is hailed as a protective measure, complaints about Constitutional Violations are laughed at. Businesses who lay off workers are rewarded with government subsidies, those who are unemployed are told they are no longer useful in our modern workforce.

And prima donna drivers who feel that they can cut off a minivan driven by a soldier's wife are rewarded. And if you decide to stand up to those who provoke, well, that's when they come for you.

Originally posted to zenbowl on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 06:56 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (16+ / 0-)

    Just some thoughts for a Sunday morning.

    "Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth." - Buddha

    by zenbowl on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 06:57:30 AM PST

  •  The only way (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zenbowl

    Your hypothetical situation would have been worse is if the guy had a "Believe" sticker and you had one of those decals of the Darwin turtle eating the Jesus fish.

    I saw this story this morning and couldn't decide whether it was funny or sad.  Now I know.

    GoldnI for TN State House District 56 2008!! (Now on Facebook!)

    by GoldnI on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 07:06:48 AM PST

  •  It's one thing to try to avoid an accident (7+ / 0-)

    by hitting your brakes because of what happened in front of you -- in fact you have a responsibility to try to not hit someone else.

    IT IS ANOTHER THING ENTIRELY TO DELIBERATELY DRIVE ILLEGALLY ON THE SHOULDER AND ASSAULT SOMEONE ELSE.

    And that is what she did.  The reason we have judges is to rein in certain verdicts/punishments.

    It does say a lot that the other car didn't even know about her until the cup was thrown.

    Let me add to this.  I'm a cyclist and have had a number of "McMissiles" thrown at me over the years.  Not pleasant, to say the least.  It does not matter that the woman's husband is a soldier, it does not matter that she had kids, it does not matter that she perceived a continuing series of threats and could not contain her adrenal glands.  It does matter that she, with planning, attempted (feebly) to assault someone else.  However, I think that time already served should be quite sufficient.

    But do not conflate someone maneuvering in traffic with that person DELIBERATELY trying to cut you off.  In my experience, they're too dumb to realize that you even exist.

    That, is a separate problem and perhaps we need to do something about the BAD/AGGRESSIVE drivers out there.  But just because they cheat (as opposed to following the rules) does not give you the right to assault them.

    Happy little moron, lucky little man. I wish I was a moron, my God, perhaps I am! -- Spike Milligan

    by polecat on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 07:10:53 AM PST

    •  Couldn't have said it better (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      polecat, FresnoKossack

      I read the entire article, and the 2-year sentence was the minimum that the jury could impose. A judge may reduce that sentence, which does seem harsh when we consider it was "just a cup of ice." What if it was a rock of equal size and weight?  

      The woman chose to take bad driving personally, and chose to exact revenge. She's in the wrong.

      "What will a wingnut do? A wingnut will step over his dying mother to stab his own father in the heart." - kanaan

      by MaskedKat on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 07:16:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I agree (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      polecat

      that she was in the wrong, don't get me wrong. I'm a pedestrian commuter (walking/subway) and I'm no fan of these idiots who nearly run me over probably once a month.

      However, two years seems more than excessive, and I can't help but blame both the system and the driver who caused her to flip out as part of the problem.

      I think the real solution is that a woman with three kids and a pregnant sister should be able to safely and cheaply travel from North Carolina on a train, avoiding the whole mess.

      "Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth." - Buddha

      by zenbowl on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 08:08:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Its called road rage. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    polecat, rockhound, FresnoKossack

    Its against the law because so many people have been killed or badly injured when other people have engaged in it.

    The fact that she had three kids and a pregnant woman in the car with her apparently didn't disuade her from acting out.  

    I hope that her sentence is for time served and that she's forced to participate in an anger management program.


    The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

    by nupstateny on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 07:36:22 AM PST

  •  Just a thought (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zenbowl, sxwarren

    I was vaguely comparing injury/death and accident rates in the USA and UK. Even taking into account miles driven each year, the UK, IIRC, has about half the rate of injuries etc.

    It seems to be down to two basic matters. The first is that getting a licence in the UK is quite a hassle as it involves a computer-based knowledge test and then, after passing it, a examined drive of at least 30 minutes. Obviously different states in the USA will have different standards but I doubt if any are quite as strict.

    The second is the punishments for bad etc driving that would probably seem quite draconian. There is a "points" system and if you accrue 12, you lose your licence for a year. Points can be given for speeding including 3 if you are caught on a speed camera. It is therefore possible to lose your licence on one journey. Hand held cellphones are illegal. Driving over the limit is an automatic one year ban for a first offence, no smack on the wrist and being told to go to a class.

    Kneejerk reactions do not come from knees.

    by londonbear on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 07:46:55 AM PST

    •  I'm with you on this (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      polecat

      except that in Europe there are often mass transit options that aren't available for families in the US. Infrastructure is a significant part of the problem.

      "Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth." - Buddha

      by zenbowl on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 08:10:18 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Frankly, the sentence is too weak... (0+ / 0-)

    She endangered herself, her sister, her three children, the other driver, and who knows how many people around her on the road? It would have been all too possible for her hand to slip on the wheel or a tire to blow out from debris on the shoulder, and her car would veer across a couple lanes of traffic.

    Then we'd be talking about as many as 6 dead because a woman couldn't control her temper.

    And the white/Mercedes thing is a cheap shot. Anybody who drives as recklessly and endangers as many people as this woman did deserves everything she gets and more - race, class, and status be damned.

  •  Contrasting personal anecdote. (0+ / 0-)

    A dozen years ago, driving on a rural strech of Interstate.

    I came up on a line of several cars in the right lane that were going somewhat slower than I was.  I checked the rearview, saw that the only vehicle behind me was a car at least a half-mile back, and pulled into the left lane to pass.

    I wasn't exactly zooming past this line of cars, but neither was I dawdling.  However, by the time I was a couple cars from the front of the line, that other car that had been initially way behind was suddenly riding my bumper.

    Since there was not enough room between the cars I was passing to pull back over to the right, I sped up a bit.  But the car on my tail only got closer - close enough that I could see a pack of Marlboros on his dash and discern that it was a soft pack and about half-full.  This is NOT an exaggeration.

    Then he started honking his horn.  I responded by blinking my headlights.  Apparently, he interpreted this as me stepping on the brakes bacause he obviously slammed on his to the extent that his car began to fishtail.

    By the time he caught back up to me, I had passed the lead car in the right lane. I turned on my blinker and pulled over into the right lane safely.

    This guy then blew past me, slewed over into the right lane directly in front of me and slammed on his brakes.  Because I could see what was coming, I'd already begun to apply my brakes slowly in an effort to warn the cars behind me and, thus, was able to avoid a collision.  

    Then the guy slammed on his brakes again, forcing me to slow down to the point where the line of cars I'd just passed started to pass us.  Meanwhile, the guy was gesturing vigorously for me to pull off at the upcoming exit.  I turned on my right blinker and, as soon as I was certain that he'd committed to the exit ramp, I sped up and merged safely back onto the Interstate.

    I exited into a rest area a couple miles further along, found a pay phone and called the State Police.  I gave them a description of the incident, the car and the driver and the car's license number and my information.  The officer I was speaking with turned away from the phone momentarily to forward the information to the dispatcher who I could then hear broadcasting the BOL.

    About an hour later, 45 minutes after we'd arrived safely home, a State Police officer called me to say that they'd caught the guy and had arrested him on charges of reckless driving stemming from a subsequent incident.  And he thanked me for helping them get this guy off the road.

    Just sayin' that going through proper law enforcement channels works, at least sometimes.

    Private life is all about managing pain. In business and government, this means externalizing and deferring costs whenever possible.

    by sxwarren on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 09:40:03 AM PST

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