Fish, Drive & Survive
By Ken Penrod
No matter how careful you
are, no matter how prudent you are—there is an uninsured, drunk
or spaced-out driver on your road that could mess up your day,
health or life.
I was pulling my jet boat on a Sunday morning in 2009—a little
rain, but scant traffic, with some country music as company and
on my way to Lander, my favorite launch for upper
Potomac smallmouth bass. I was extra excited that
6-AM as one of my guests that day was to be a 12-year old whose
father assured me that “this boy was into fishing.” I love
teaching fishing but I love teaching fishing to youngsters
I was traveling in the far right lane Just before the
Connecticut Avenue exit on the Beltway when I heard a noise to
my left and when I glanced that way, I could see an
out-of-control vehicle crossing all lanes on a course I could do
nothing about. He was going to hit me at about 60-MPH—and he
did. Funny—how many
things go through your mind in a split second, but there was
nowhere for me to go so I braced my hands against the steering
wheel and hit the brakes. I could actually see the other driver
looking at me prior to impact. He crashed into the left front
fender of my Chevy/Ranger Edition pickup truck, hurling me into
the guard rails violently.
I could see the driver sitting in his vehicle, blocking one lane
of traffic and when I leaned out of the window to survey my
predicament, I smelled gasoline. I had just filled the truck’s
When he pushed me into the guard rails, the posts punctured my
gasoline tank and now 26-gallons of fuel were running under his
car and onto a damp Beltway. I screamed at him to shut his car
engine off and get to the berm. In my rear view mirror I could
see traffic attempting to avoid us but when they came in contact
with a rain-wet, now gasoline soaked pavement—it was like black
I was hurting all over but managed to push my truck door open
and went around his car, pulled him out of the door and
deposited him on the grass berm. It was then that I saw that my
Xpress jet boat had launched from the trailer and was sitting
along the roadside. Imagine that!
I called 911 and while I was talking, I walked to the read of
the truck to survey that view of my damage. The pain in my legs
was excruciating but when you are on an adrenaline rush, you can
muster super power.
I was not on the highway, but alongside my bent-up trailer when
I saw an automobile skidding toward me. With every bit of
athleticism that I had left—I dove across the trailer, which the
car hit, and my BlackBerry struck the ground and scattered into
Strange things can happen at times like this but as I lay in the
dirt, with my leg on the trailer, my phone in pieces—I laughed
at myself. “If your sister could see you now,” ran through my
mind. I got to my feet and that driver was calling to me out of
his passenger window—but he was adding to the danger by taking
up more Beltway space. He did come in contact with my boat
trailer but his damage was minimal so I yelled to him to “get
the hell out of here.” I could hear sirens by now.
As usual, the fire company showed up first and blocked the lane
that my assaulter had blocked. When they got out of their
apparatus and walked to the scene, they slid and some fell
because of the gasoline soaked road. They began to scatter what
appeared to be “kitty litter” on the pavement and that really
helped with traffic. I gathered my cell phone parts and
reassembled them—but it takes time to reboot it. A State
Policeman showed up and questioned me. I needed to call my wife
and also get a message to my client. My truck and boat were
absolutely totaled and without a doubt—I had $25,000 worth of
goodies in that boat and in that truck. I refused the officer’s
offer to go for medical help. I did ask him to “check that guy
out,” because he readily got into an ambulance. We obviously had
a miscommunication because he said to me “this isn’t my first
rodeo.” I meant;
check him out for drugs or alcohol abuse and he though I meant
his health issues.
The noise I heard before impact was that man striking the Jersey
Wall at the center of the Beltway, then careening across four
lanes of highway to take me out.
We were on a slight left turn where the accident
occurred. When I helped him from his car he was dazed—or under
the influence, and I could not understand anything he tried to
say. I took the same hit as he and I was acting prudently. He
was either drunk, stoned or had fallen asleep—in my opinion.
I called Maggie, my buddy Jim Spencer and tow trucks. The police
also called tow trucks. While waiting for Spencer to come help
me gather my thousands of dollars’ worth of belongings, I was
alone for a few minutes and the happenings of the past several
minutes settled in on me. I was rather dazed, but running on
will; I realized that I should be dead but this wasn’t the first
time; I wondered if my family would care if I had passed; I
agonized about that little boy that probably would never
understand why his guide stood him up for his fishing trip today
and I was grateful.
Jim and I loaded his van with items from my boat and from the
vehicle. You would not believe what I have in my wheeled toys.
Tow trucks came to get my boat and truck but Jim was able to
attach the boat trailer to his vehicle. The truck that took the
“other” vehicle did so easily, the same with my truck—but the
goon that came for my boat was unbearable. It really was a good
thing that Jim Spencer was there. Not until I was home did I
realize how badly I was hurt. I had trouble standing and hip and
back pain was really bad. I know I was concussed and I know that
the collision damaged my hips to the point of replacement. I
missed a lot of work. I suffered for two years.
That “other” driver was found guilty in a court of law.
The “jest” of this article isn’t about one of my many
adventures. This was not the first boat/vehicle I destroyed on
the Capital beltway.
I simply want you to know that no matter how careful you
are while towing a boat—you are at the mercy of Insurance
In this case, the “other” driver was insured by MAIF (Maryland
Insurance Fund) and it should be a crime to have such
insurance—let alone the ability to issue that insurance. My
assailant was insured by MAIF for $20,000 medical and $15,000
property damage. Why the hell any of our “governments” would put
people on the road with such scant coverage? WHY? That’s just
like giving unqualified people loans for home mortgages that
they could never hope to pay. MAIF must be investigated and
their ability to do as they do regulated by courts that are not
as liberal as Maryland.
MAIF has very hostile and persistent claim adjusters also, so
they will harass you every day for one reason or another. Do you
know how many customers MAIF has? It will shock you, and when
you find out how many of their insured are illegals—you may have
an upset stomach. This is an insurance company licensed in a
that provides motor vehicle privileges to people that may be
illegal—are not even close to road-worthy let alone financially
responsibility. My personal losses and medical costs will be in
the “hundreds of thousands” and that “man’s” junk car and
no-responsibility venue, allowed by Maryland, just simply goes
on—probably with a car provided by Maryland and no penalty.
Sooo--how’s your insurance? I insist that my guides have
commercial boat insurance of no less than $500,000 in liability.
Do you know how little that would be in a serious accident? We
have never had a claim in our 30-year existence—but we have had
many boat trailering accidents, some were very nasty. That’s
exactly why I do not allow my guides to carry passengers in
their vehicles when going to a guided adventure.
If they do so, it’s not an LOU trip—or the guide is savvy
enough to make evidence that the “ride” is simply a friend
passenger,” while the boat trip is professional.
There are a few facts of life that I want you folks to know
about trailering a boat. First and foremost is that upon frontal
impact of combined MPH of more that 40-MPH—your boat is a
Russian Scud missile. It’s going to launch—and no one knows the
direction. That is absolute—are you listening?
You should, well, MUST, insure your vehicle for underinsured and
uninsured drivers. Your state and federal governments will
furnish illegals and unworthy and incompetents with vehicle
insurance—to your detriment.
On another note, your boat insurance requires scrutiny. I’m a
guide so I must have commercial insurance and have employed
Charter Lakes Insurance Company for many, many years. You must
spend time, even pay for legal consultation, when purchasing
boat insurance. Actually—ask your guide if he has commercial
insurance! If he doesn’t, and you have an accident—you are
have never had an “at fault” claim with boat insurance but I
have been “screwed” often over the past 30 years. Those of you
with just recreational boat insurance have an eye-opening fact
ahead of you in the event of an accident. That “buddy” of yours
will sue you into oblivion if he is hurt enough.
Do you want to lose your home and wealth? Have an
accident with little insurance.
I also bet you that most boats on any water are without any
insurance so get uninsured and underinsured coverage in
You know how carefully you prepare your boat for traveling!
I’m anal about it. I do my own-walk-around during
pre-launch and pre-travel. My bow strap is tight. My transom
straps are extra tight. I have the transom saver secured to the
outboard and trailer axel just perfect. I don’t want loose items
on the boat deck to fly out when traveling.
Those three straps are simply worthless in a head-on collision.
They cannot keep your boat on a trailer and odds are really good
that the boat is coming through your tow vehicle. I suggest that
those straps fail at 40 MPH impact.
So—fishing isn’t all about boating, but rather driving habits
and road worthiness should be considerations every day. While
you may be most careful, there are governmental agencies that
legalize illegals and other unworthy drivers -and like
always—most of us pay for that in some fashion. Redistribute the
wealth! How do you like “change” now?