On March 6 2008, shortly before 3pm, I witnessed a minor collision between a yellow / white FJ Cruiser and a silver Corolla, after which the FJ driver left the scene with the Corolla in pursuit with its driver attempting to get the FJ driver to pull over and resolve the situation. The incident occurred in a stream of traffic turning left from Route 125 onto the combined Route 125/114 south/east bound in North Andover, where the Bertucci's restaurant is.
I viewed the collision in my rear-view mirror, after which both vehicles passed me going southeast on 114 past Merrimack College.
I was waiting to leave the Bertucci's lot via its southeastern access, and needed to turn left onto 114 south myself. There is a left-turn lane for that, but it was a busy period in the day and as I waited, many cars arrived into the left-turn lane and nobody would make a hole for me, so I was blocked from getting across the straight-ahead lane. While waiting, I specifically noticed the FJ Cruiser arrive into the same pack, due to its bright color and a particularly abrupt, jerky driving behavior as it came to a stop.
I still needed to reach 114 southeast, so with a solid wall of cars blocking any hope of reaching the left-turn lane I pulled out into the empty straight-ahead lane, proceeded slowly up to the light at the intersection with my left blinker on, and squeezed slightly over toward the left-turn lane as I arrived in the hope of letting other traffic pass by on the right if it needed to. When the light turned green for the left I waited for a few vehicles to make their left beside me, to try and express good will about ordering and right of way, and then made my own left toward the far lane on 114 and proceeded southeast.
Note that there is one left-turn lane here, but two lanes southeastward on 114 so there was plenty of room for everyone to turn left without interference regardless of which lane on 125 they start from. I wasn't in anyone's way, and traffic flow remained smooth through the left turn.
All this is somewhat irrelevant to the incident itself, but helps to place me at the time of the incident and detail that the intersection is very wide without any sort of restriction to traffic flow. One left-turn lane into two travel lanes is plenty of room for everyone. I was well clear of the intersection and proceeding away from it when the incident occurred.
A rapid movement in the rear-view mirror caught my eye for a moment, and I watched in some amount of horror as that same yellow FJ Cruiser swerved and slammed sideways into a silver Corolla to its right, pushing the Corolla into the roadside curb momentarily. This occurred in the right-hand travel lane on 114. I could not imagine how the FJ even managed to hit the Corolla across all that distance, but it did. I even *heard* the impact through my mostly closed car windows. I was perhaps 200 feet away down the road by then. With nobody near me in front or behind I continued southeast at a low to medium speed, keeping an eye on what was happening behind me in the rearview, and was astounded to see the FJ veer abruptly away from the Corolla and accelerate for the left travel lane. My immediate thought was that it was leaving the accident scene and was about to be in much bigger trouble than from simply causing a fender-bender. As it drew parallel with where I was in the right lane, I OPENED MY DOOR a little and POINTED straight at the FJ driver and toward the roadside, trying to indicate as clearly as possible that it shouldn't be driving away but pulling over to resolve the situation. I cannot remember if the driver looked at me or not; it was hard to see due to daylight glare on the windshield anyway. The FJ roared past me, and shortly behind came the Corolla which had recovered, was still driveable, and whose driver was now realizing he had been seriously wronged.
As a witness to the serious aggressive action on the part of the FJ, I felt that it was appropriate to try and help in as safe a manner as I could. As both vehicles passed by me I sped up a little and joined the group at the back, hoping they would pull over soon and exchange paperwork and take my statement. But the FJ kept going, moving to the right lane ahead of me and bearing right onto 125 south where 114 and 125 split again at the next intersection.
I had a camera in the glovebox, so I pulled it out and continued following the group and tried to get a clear shot of the FJ. Unfortunately the Corolla was very close behind, with its driver waving his arm out the window pointing to the side of the road, so with blockage and motion blur from full zoom-in I could only get a partial plate. I didn't want to get too close to the pair since the FJ could easily have done another reckless action. My intent was to try to get a clear picture, stop somewhere safe, and then call 911.
I continued down 125 behind the group; we were all doing about the posted speed limit of 50 MPH through the stretch. As we neared Salem Street at the blinker and Getty station, the FJ went to turn left and the Corolla followed, through a fortuitous gap in opposing traffic. I followed but had to wait for another opposing car or two, which placed me farther behind. Once in the neighborhood that Salem St passes through I rapidly lost the group because the FJ continued down the residential streets at high speed, and as I spotted the kids and dogs and whatever else out on the streets there was no way I was going to compound the errors by blasting through there endangering life and limb like the FJ driver apparently thought nothing of doing.
I pulled over and stopped and checked the pictures on the camera, realizing that I hadn't gotten any really crisp shots. I would have called 911 right from there but my cellphone was apparently in a totally dead area and off its network. As I reviewed the pictures I was astounded to see the FJ coming back the other way, heading back out of the neighborhood! It was around a slight curve and I had no time to ready the camera for another shot even then. The Corolla was nowhere to be seen.
By the time I got turned around the FJ was undoubtedly long gone, so I gave up at this point and headed back to Merrimack College where I had an engagement [which is why I was in the area in the first place]. Once I met up with the people I was working with I asked them to wait, and called 911 from there, even though the phone was still having some difficulty. I got switched to the North Andover police department and explained as much as I could. One of their officers called me back shortly afterward and encouraged me to come down in person to give more information, and meanwhile the driver of the Corolla had also called in and was there at the station by the time I arrived. We exchanged info, officer D. Quinlan took down our incident details, and I went back to Merrimack.
Image 1: 6-Mar-2008 14:54 EST
Image 1a: 6-Mar-2008 14:54 EST
Image 2: 6-Mar-2008 14:57 EST
Image 3: 6-Mar-2008 15:46 EST
While I cannot determine what state the FJ's plate is from, the green license plate lettering should help narrow it down and the owner should be easily findable through a partial-plate search and vehicle match across nearby states. Also note that the vehicle was likely purchased at Ira Toyota, shown by the small black and white oval logo to the left of the spare tire.
I am all in favor of safe, orderly driving. As a hybrid owner interested in receiving good fuel economy I have a keen sense of smooth, predictable vehicle control and the value of momentum. Abrupt speed and direction changes on the part of other drivers are an immediate red flag to me that indicates unsafe and/or aggressive behavior. Personally I'm a step 9 driver with a spotless record, and have not only taken the InControl advanced driving course offered recently in Massachusetts but also helped many other people improve their own driving methodologies to increase safety and minimize fuel use. I host a website, viewable here, which hosts many articles and documents on hybrids as well as "ecodriving" hints for any type of vehicle.
Thus, when I see the kind of behavior and attitude that the FJ driver telegraphed to me as early as when it arrived in the left-turn lane by Bertucci's, my immediate thought is that such drivers need to be OFF the road entirely until remedial training is administered and proven effective. There is no place for aggressive driving on the public ways, period, and a very limited context for "performance" driving in the case of emergency vehicles on a call. And yet we see aggression and inattention on the roads around us all the time these days; that most certainly does not make it right.
I cannot even begin to guess whether the FJ driver was intoxicated, but it is certainly within the realm of possibility. I consider the fact that the little car-chase down 125 remained within legal speed limits as somewhat significant, as if the FJ was truly trying to "escape" it likely would have been going much faster, but then its speed in the residential neighborhood became a much greater threat. I would love to eventually find out what the FJ driver was thinking that whole time and led to all of these largely inexplicable actions, but more importantly I would like any effort possible to be made in REMOVING said driver from the roads until the root cause of these actions is permanently fixed.