- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2007

“Oh no, not another one.” Do you find yourself increasingly repeating that sorrowful phrase lately as the roadkills pile up? Forget the fear of flying; driving is getting to be more deadly.

Who knew we would arrive at this dreadful destination where a daily commute is more competitive and vile than a NASCAR race? Or, that you had to risk life and limb just to get to and from the office, school or grocery store? And, far too many road trips for the annual, anticipated vacation are leading to tragic dead ends.

That is apparently what happened this week to a young Pennsylvania couple on vacation, reportedly headed to a North Carolina beach and traveling along Interstate 270 near Frederick, Md., during the Wednesday morning rush hour.

Footage of the white sheet covering their Chrysler Sebring convertible was a sure sign of the carnage.

Police identified the driver as Christian M. Luciano, 28, and the passenger as Lindsay L. Bender, 25, both of Harrisburg, Pa. Neither was wearing a seat belt when they were ejected from the car.

Witnesses told police that the couple were quarreling and exchanging obscene gestures with the driver of a light-green pickup truck with a diamond-pattern rear bumper for some distance as they headed south. The truck moved into the left lane in front of the car. According to some reports, the driver hit the brakes, causing Mr. Luciano to lose control of his vehicle, which crossed through the right lane and hit a guardrail.

Maryland State Police 1st Sgt. Russ Newell said the car went airborne and struck a tree, and the couple were thrown from the vehicle onto a grassy area. They were pronounced dead at the scene. The truck driver kept going. The interstate was closed, tying up traffic for more than three hours.

It sounds like a fiery, action-packed Hollywood chase caper even down to the edgy element where the driver creating the chaos gets away. However, this is a real-life, real-time cautionary tale about the road rage that increasingly consumes us.

Surely, more of us than I care to admit need to enroll in a 12-step Road Rage Recovery program. I dare not get behind the wheel without calling on a higher power for patience and protection, or the radio tuned to a traffic band.

With not-so-surprising stories — such as drivers throwing icy or scalding liquids at fellow commuters — regional lawmakers also need to focus their bad-behavior bans on stronger legislation aimed at reducing these senseless road-rage accidents. Perhaps we need more patrols, stiffer penalties or a few mandated sessions with Miss Manners.

Charles Bender, Miss Bender’s father, spoke to The Washington Post: “How could something so stupid lead to this? They had their whole life ahead of them. I feel sorry for whomever that driver is. I have no hate. I have sorrow.”

Really, what sick and selfish manner of man leaves victims, wounded or worse, to die in the wake of his injurious deeds? Police are on the lookout for the truck driver, described only as a white man in his 30s wearing a baseball cap. We can only hope that he has the decency to turn himself in or that someone steps forward with information that would lead to his apprehension.

However, that was not the only accident this week in which a driver kept going. A witness watched as the driver of a white truck failed to stop after striking a 58-year-old Leesburg man who jumped from an overpass onto Route 28 on Wednesday morning, Loudoun police said. They are not sure whether the victim died from the fall or from being struck by the passing vehicle.

As you can tell, I am becoming obsessed with traffic reports. As I listen to the lists of backups, lane closures and commuter disasters, I can’t help but wonder about the loved ones expecting a father, a daughter or a mate who will never come through the door to greet them with a hug or a kiss.

Then, I instinctively run down the list of my own loved ones and associates, who commute along the troublesome byways, hoping that they are not stuck and have made safe passage through the danger zone.

Wednesday’s hit-and-run road-rage incident on I-270 first caught my attention because I have friends who live or work in that area and the car was a Sebring convertible. I own such a vehicle, but so does one of my colleagues, whose car and commute more closely match that of the deceased couple.

Look in the mirror: That motorist mania you dismiss may reflect your own.

Who needs to worry about racist and sexist vile coming from shock jocks and rappers on the radio? Just count the number of times you hear or see an obscene gesture on your next road trip.

Slow down. Yield. Mind your manners. Above all, face up to the consequences.

All distant and ditched concepts? As my Grandma Bea always said, “People today act as if they have no home training.”

Oh, common courtesy and civility, where art thou? That sorrowful lament is also becoming part of my daily ritual as I now include vulnerable commuters in my morning and evening prayers as I hear myself saying, “Oh no, not another one.”

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