By Ken Gibson
This weekend on Sunrise Highway, a black man almost lost his life to two white people.
Driving a 26-footer loaded with heavy deliveries, he was faced with the strange spectacle of a Toyota suddenly stopping in the middle lane, with the rest of the cars whizzing by.
Applying the brakes and keeping the truck steady, so as not to allow it to swerve and cause mass destruction, he did a great job of staying straight and not getting into either of the two lanes on the sides.
His windshield was covered in broken glass and what looked like blood. The vehicle in front, that had inexplicably stopped short with no warning, moved to the side of the road and the truck he was driving followed.
The Toyota had been hit, with its back window shattered, while the truck sustained damage to its front and the coolant leaked a reddish liquid. Fortunately, no one was injured. This could have been bad, very bad.
The seasoned response of the truck driver served to ensure that there was no injury or loss of life. He had a hard choice, forced to brake, with traffic behind him that could have piled on if he had been too sudden in his approach.
His cool response is why I am still here to write about it; I was the passenger in the truck.
What happened next was even more unnerving than being in a 26′ truck having an accident.
Getting out, I ran up to the smaller car in front, going over and over in my mind the first responder training I had in the Navy.
Two people, a man and a woman, answered my question about their health by telling me that they might have whiplash – and bizarrely yelling that they had to stop for a turtle. A really big turtle they insisted, indicating with their hands a creature about 5-6 feet in length. Which might be right for the Galapagos Islands, but not for Exit 46A on Sunrise Highway in Suffolk County, New York.
Their claim of whiplash and large reptile sightings was surreal.
But yes there might have been a turtle, maybe a 10-inch turtle, or a toy turtle, on the road, the driver had seen it; but unlike the couple in the Toyota, he did not endanger people’s lives by stopping for it. And no one else on the road stopped or even slowed down for this reptile, despite their claims that ‘everybody’ did so.
That too was a surreal part of their dialogue.
Far from it, most or all were driving in tandem, at just about the speed limit, some over, but not causing accidents.
The Highway Patrol arrived and talked to both sides, making a brief preliminary report. The couple who stopped for the turtle was unashamed to tell him of their reason for stopping.
I was more shocked at their brazen attitude than at the accident itself. In fact, not only were they nonchalant about their deed, but they seemed proud of it.
What if that had been a bus full of school children behind them? Would they have jumped out claiming whiplash and announcing their deed as a righteous act?
The officer mentioned that this kind of accident has been increasing. And so did some of the locals, who were getting calls to tell them that the merchandise they were expecting would not be delivered today. One woman was in tears, having taken a day off of work to get a present for her children. Other deliveries included medical equipment. Area clinics will now have to wait to get life-saving equipment because a do-gooder couple decided to save the life of a turtle while risking human life.
Checking on the internet, I find that this is becoming a new normal: in fact, it is not just causing fender benders, but fatalities. In 2019 a semi crashed North Carolina, killing a 68-year-old truck driver Arthur Ray Turner on Highway 17. In front of him, a woman in an SUV stopped suddenly to save a turtle. She ended up sending a man to the hospital, where he died of gruesome injuries a day later.
Black lives matter less than turtles to some people.
I am not sure if the SUV driver who caused the trucker to be injured and killed was even charged. Strangely, these turtle fanatics have support and political clout – thus they can get away with putting their pet cause above the law in some areas, and walk away with no penalty.
But another such incident did result in the criminal prosecution of a person who caused death: Emma Czornobaj. She had stopped to help ducks along a highway and was found guilty of triggering an accident that claimed two lives. She lost her appeal.
A jury convicted her in June 2014 of two counts of criminal negligence causing death and two counts of dangerous driving causing death.
Jean-Francois Bouveret, her lawyer, appealed the conviction and tried to have her driving ban reduced. Why? This woman is a danger to society, as are the two who stopped today and almost claimed lives.
Black lives, white lives, my life, your life; all are in jeopardy so stupid do-gooders can boast about helping a turtle. Which may have been a toy, plastic turtle. Who knows.
The issue is of growing concern, and on the internet, many comments can be found – such as this one from Bruce A. McIntyre, dated 6 April 2019:
“Generally, if a vehicle runs into the rear of your vehicle, then they’re at fault for not being in control of their vehicle. However, you may be held as responsible because of a lack of warning for your stop. Stopping for a turtle or small animal while in traffic may be seen as dangerous contributing factors.”
A Titusville, Florida accident in 2019, involving a car stopping to save a turtle, elicited the following from Titusville Deputy Chief Todd Hutchinson: ”We strongly urge against drivers stopping their vehicles in the middle of a travel lane because it creates a significant risk to public safety.”
The Titusville incident was devoid of injury, but a Cove City, North Carolina accident sent people to the hospital after a man tried to help a turtle on Highway 70. The do-gooder’s SUV was an obstacle to others, and people ended up in the Carolina East Medical Center as a result, while the driver of the SUV, Higinio Batista was charged with reckless driving.
On a Garden State road in 2008, Julio Pagan was struck in his Ford after a motorist in an Infiniti slowed down to avoid a turtle, causing Dominique Flipping to run into him and cross the line.
Flipping got a ticket for reckless driving.
And in Missouri, two bikers collided when one of them decided to make a sudden U-turn for the sake of a turtle.
This trend is of concern. Much as I am an environmentalist, I would never endanger people to save a turtle in the middle of the road. I have no right to, and neither does anyone else.
Yes, turtle lives matter. By all means, if one can safely slow down on some quiet road or even get out and push the creature to safety, do so. But stopping on a highway with hundreds of other vehicles whizzing by can cause massive pile-ups.
The two who almost did so this morning were let go. They are what some would consider a danger to society. They ought to be arrested, and there ought to be some very clear laws that make this a crime.
Presently, the law is on the side of a driver that is hit from behind, making an assumption that they ought to have stopped. Tell that to Arthur Ray Turner, who is cold in the earth – along with the turtle that some fool tried to save with no regard to truckers and other drivers on the road.
I will be calling the Suffolk County police department to get them to make an arrest, and writing to lawmakers in that area – starting with Congressman Lee Zeldin – to get them to save lives by addressing this issue.
Let’s hope they move on this faster than a turtle. Let no one stop to save their political careers if they turn turtle on us. This is an issue that needs to be moved on quickly and efficiently before more lives are lost.