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Knowledge of Turnpike idiot's ride says a lot

December 11, 2013 - Paul Giannamore
The Ohio Turnpike wreck story is nothing but tragic. A couple in their 70s were killed by a megaspeeder who slammed into their minivan Thanksgiving night.

I can’t help but think of my parents driving home from my house down Route 7 a decade or two ago, and how absolutely angry I would have been at the other driver if something this awful would have happened. Thankfully, I never had to go there and my heart hurts for the couple's family. The pictures of that wonderful couple killed by the speeder haunt me.

I see idiots driving around me every day, acting as if a car going 65 (in the 55 zone, no less, just speeding for survival instinct) is nothing more than a speed bump. I’m not sure if this is the Gran Turismo/Forza Motorsport/Grand Theft Auto generation coming of age or what, but I feel like that unidentified slow car in the video game that gets bumped off the highway by the player wanting to score points.


Every damned time I drive.

I have confused that with losing my gearhead mojo, but I’m now convinced it’s not that at all.

Because one question I have been unable to answer until today about this Turnpike idiot, said to have been driving anywhere from 125 mph to 150 mph, depending on what version you hear.

And that question is, just what was he driving? It wasn’t a muscle car, an Italian exotic or a James Dean 1950 Mercury leadsled, nor even a Steve McQueen Bullitt Mustang or a black Charger.

It was described in four alarmed phone calls the Ohio State Highway Patrol has released as a “small, silver or grey” probably “foreign car” (maybe it was blue, one caller said), and it was weaving in and out of traffic. He was going too fast to identify. The only video I saw looked like a night-time speedshot from Indianapolis. I couldn’t identify it, either.

“He’s going to kill somebody” said one caller, sadly prescient, about 15 minutes before the car slammed into the couple’s van, which burst into flames.

The speeder's car is estimated to have covered about 60 miles between the first call at 6:57 p.m. and the last one at about 7:16 p.m.

(Oddly enough, the judge who presided over the initial hearing for accused idiot driver Andrew Gans is named John Kolesar. A generation or two of Catholic boys know our Father John Kolesar taught about being responsible, knowledgeable gearheads in auto mechanics classes at Central. I'm hoping the judge's name 's an omen for Mr. Gans.)

I see drivers who frighten me all the time, and I’ve driven the Ohio Turnpike more times in my life than I can count. None have pushed all my buttons to make me call the troopers, so this guy had to be hauling and in a frightening manner.

Turns out he was driving a 2013 Infiniti M56. Which isn’t all that small, but to the average pickup truck, giant sport ute driver, its small. Or it looked small because it was going warp speed.

Anyway, I have a better mental picture of this guy because I now know what he was driving.

A 24-year old in a luxury sport sedan. So he either had a great job, an inheritance or a relative with the keys. The police aren’t saying he stole it, so drive-it-like-you-stole-it doesn’t count here.

Kid out in a nice car with the power and the handling. The car itself screams cocky. Self-assured. Only thing worse on the vehicular arrogance scale might have been a BMW M3.

Can’t wait to hear his defense, but the gearhead in me now has a mental picture.

If he wasn’t suicidal, and he wasn’t stoned, it will be simple arrogance that comes up at trial or plea deal time. And a couple who had a family and a long life together is gone.

Which is the kind of thing that makes me swear a lot on the highway. A lot of you, I fear, are going to kill somebody and often it’s not the good fortune that it’s yourselves alone. I get a particular joy out of seeing the silver Chargers with the blue and red lights flashing behind some motoring bully who just blew by me a mile before. Chalk up one for the good guys.

(And most of you idiots will slam on your brakes upon seeing the silver Chargers. I go by at 60. They have far bigger fish to fry than one relaxed, occasionally angry, old guy in a PT Cruiser just barely breaking the speed limit. I pass all of you cop-brakers. Idiots.)

That’s not the death of gearhead mojo. I know who I am when I drive. And, I fear, I know who most of you are, too.


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