This incident and story serve as a heads-up for anyone who drives on New Jersey's roadways. Always expect the unexpected and keep your eyes open at all times to your surroundings.

I've been driving the roads in New Jersey all my life ever since I got my permit at age 16. When I first got my license at 17, my brother and I would take road trips and drive to every corner of the state.

I can almost promise that if he was still living in the state and we both had the time, we'd still be taking road trips all over The Garden State. New Jersey is simply an amazing state to explore.

Over the years, however, you begin to notice things happen on the road that is very unfortunate. One such incident I witnessed was a car going out of control on the Garden State Parkway.

Garden State Parkway sign
Garden State Parkway sign (Dan Alexander, Townsquare Media NJ)

Now I will note that this first incident occurred many years ago and it's not the one that happened over the holidays. But it is important to share since it not only also points to some of the dangers on our roads, but also a pivotal moment that made me more aware of my surroundings while driving.

The roadway was wet but visibility was good on that particular day on the Parkway, so my only guess was that this individual might've been going too fast. Fortunately, this person didn't hit any other cars when he lost control.

I remember this car being a little ahead of me in one of the right lanes when he started to lose control (this portion of the Garden State Parkway was four lanes wide with shoulders). He first swerved to the right before skidding across all five lanes before hitting the left barrier.

He kind of did a swerve across the highway. First partially turning left toward the flow of traffic before steering back toward the right.

Getty Stock / ThinkStock
Getty Stock / ThinkStock

I was very close to hitting this person. So close, in fact, that I remember seeing the look on this older gentleman's face as he swerved across the front of my car.

A very scary incident, and if I hadn't noticed him beginning to lose control, I don't think I would've started to slow down when I did, and I truly believe he would've taken me out as a result. That's how close of a cut it was.

I bring that incident up because it was that moment when I really started to keep my eyes open and become hyper-aware of my surroundings at all times. New Jersey's roads are full of surprises and I wanted to be as ready as possible for anything else that might happen unexpectedly.

This brings us to New Year's Day 2023 when I had another close call. Once again, trying to keep my eyes open all around me is why I was able to avoid a high-speed hit with only seconds to spare.

Changes Made To New Years Eve In Times Square Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
Getty Images

So to paint the picture, I was traveling on Route 1 South on my way to the radio ranch. I did the morning shift for New Year's Day on New Jersey 101.5 that morning starting at 6 a.m.

So it was just a little bit after 5 a.m. when I was approaching the intersection of New Road and Route 1 South in South Brunswick. It was a little foggy out that morning but nothing too crazy. Roads were also a little slick, but very little traffic.

As I was coming up to the intersection, my light turned red. No big deal, the fog wasn't so thick that I couldn't see the light allowing me enough time to stop.

Now I'm sure those who travel Route 1 know some of these lights will change for nobody, and that's exactly what happened here. The light for New Road turned green with absolutely no vehicles waiting to go.

N Rotteveel
N Rotteveel

There are three lanes in this particular area and I was in the center lane. There was absolutely nobody around at first when I stopped until I looked in my rearview mirror.

Coming out of the fog I see this set of headlights. At first, it simply appeared to be another car approaching the intersection. But as it got closer, it started to seem like it wasn't going to stop.

At this point, I had to make a split-second decision. Do I stay put where I am and wait for the light to change, or do I try to move?


And this really was a split-second decision in judgment. I made the decision to quickly try to move into the right lane, even though that meant driving into the intersection a little bit.

I'm glad I did move. The second my car got out of the center lane, this car went passing by, at full speed, right through the red light.

What's more, it too was traveling the center lane. It was a light-colored car with Pennsylvania plates, although I couldn't tell what the make or model of the car was.

The car didn't appear to be flooring it, nor did it appear to make any effort to stop. It just kept on driving as if the light or myself wasn't even there. The speed limit in this spot is 55 mph, and I'm almost certain this car was doing about that.

DUI crash (Verona Police Department via Facebook) 2
(Verona Police Department via Facebook)

If I hadn't kept an eye on my surroundings as early as I was, I'm almost certain I would've been rear-ended at full speed. I literally got out of the way with only a couple of seconds to spare. Fortunately, there was also no cross traffic at that time.

It could've been a number of things that were going on with that car. It was the early hours of New Year's Day, and the car had an out-of-state plate. Maybe they were visiting friends or family and drank a few too many?

Or maybe they were on their phone texting? The car did seem to maintain its lane but at the same time clearly was oblivious to the surrounding area.

I never came across that car again for the rest of my drive to the radio station. I wasn't sure if I'd find him in a ditch somewhere or rammed into a pole. Hopefully, they got home safely and didn't hit anyone along the way.

Car headlights warning
Getty images via Canva

Again, if it wasn't for that Parkway incident I first mentioned, I don't know if I'd be as observant of my surroundings as I am today. And who knows if I would've made a split-second judgment call like that with a moment's notice.

As much as I wish we didn't have to, we really need to be as observant as possible while driving the roads in New Jersey with eyes all around us. Please try not to get distracted out there and keep on the lookout for the unexpected.

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The above post reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 Sunday morning host Mike Brant. Any opinions expressed are his own.

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