Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: Risk on the I-85 racetrack

Apr. 06, 2013 @ 07:50 PM

I like antique cars. The kind that have “Hoover for President” license plates (not that anyone wants another Hooverville).

They just look cool. We don’t really need power windows and expensive one-piece bumpers that stopped being able to withstand a bumping long ago.

Cars used to be about getting from point A to point B relatively comfortably. And, if you could afford it, with some style. Like cars from the first decades of the 20th century, before they became floating, climate-controlled couches removed from the road experience.

My little Honda sits low to the ground. Not a low rider or anything, just a basic sedan that lets you know when you run over a pothole, of which there are plenty around here.

So perhaps the guy driving the BMW that almost took me out on my Friday morning commute felt like he didn’t almost cause a crash. Maybe he felt removed from the road experience. Of course, he was also wearing those earmuff style headphones, so he was pretty removed from a lot of reality as he sped onto Interstate 85.

Did I mention that all this took place in close proximity to another vehicle, which happened to be a van with a big caution, flammable oxygen sign on the back?

For some reason I-85, more than I-40 or the Durham Freeway, is a route that makes you gasp.

About a month ago on my evening commute, as I entered the race track from 15-501, there was a car stopped in a center lane. That happens – sometimes you can’t hobble your car over to the shoulder. But the driver got out. Got out! In a center lane, on I-85.

I barely had time to switch over to give a buffer lane, so who knows how many near misses came after me. Sometimes I think 15-501 during the evening rush hour is that first lap of a NASCAR race, with the pace car to keep you a little slower, but when the adrenaline starts revving. If you’re trying to exit from Cornwallis Road or Duke, you know what I’m talking about.

On the down slope from I-85, 15-501 drivers haven’t relaxed yet. On my same Friday morning commute, I saw a pedestrian crossing 15-501. Gasp. I was going the other direction, but saw him moseying across as a car approached. Holy smokes, I said, or something similar.

Finally, he hustled over to the guard rail before the SUV barreled down.

We don’t have to be a bunch of Sunday drivers, but we don’t all need to be auditioning for the Charlotte Motor Speedway, either.


Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan may be reached at dvaughan@heraldsun.com or 919-419-6563.