Insured To 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 especially.

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 tank.

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 ice.

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 several parts.

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. Surprise!

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 companies.

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 state of America 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 up-a-creek-without-a-paddle.  I 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 substantial amounts.

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?