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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So it's a gorgeous Saturday in N. Idaho and my wife and I feel the itch to do something that used to be more common. Go for a drive all afternoon. She's a driver and owned a 5 speed Supra when we married. We chose to go to Kootenai Falls, MT as its late spring and it will be rocking with snowmelt and its a gorgeous country road drive for most of the 2 hour run each way. With a low mile Porsche 944, a recent Subaru Outback (great road machine except for the inane electric steering which feels like a video game and that's not a compliment) and other choices, I grabbed the E46 keys. Cool sunny spring day, driver-level country roads through the mountains - perfect.

I fell in love with the telepathic steering, the "move once, take an instant confident set" suspension, the "whatever you need, the instant you need it" brakes and the responsive engine all over again. I should do this more often. There were passing opportunities, decreasing radius turns, a cat ran out at 75 (these back roads are 70mph in Montana) and I romped the brakes and we missed it, we listened to some classic Gospel on the Harmon Kardon, pulled the sport seat thigh supports out, and just carved roads all the way there.

The falls were going off big time, mist in the air, and we hopscotched huge river rocks, she taking pictures, me glassing the hillsides with my ever present Nikon binoc. Could have popped a tent and stayed the night:

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On the way back, the Xenons were lighting the way, great instrumentation, I was feeling lucky on dark desolate roads and kept it at the night time max of 70. Leaving Sandpoint, ID some guy in an F350 started crowding us. I nipped the 4 ways a couple times but he was having none of it. I was now on cruise at 3 over because there's a huge mudbog event in the area this weekend and I'd noted every little burg's lone officer was lurking in darkened parking lots because they're a legendary wild bunch. (Google Moyie Mudbog)_

So we drove like this for 10 miles. No opportunity for him to pass, me resolutely staying close to the limit. Finally, there are two lanes on the 95 and he goes around me - no hint he's upset, so I shrug and figure he's just one of those impolite drivers who crowd you - no biggie. I dim the Xenons as he passes, and let him get about 150 feet ahead, and then join him in the left lane. I waited for that extra space because I don't want to signal him that now I'm going to crowd him, but I know the right lane ends in about a half mile (30 seconds).

10 seconds later, he gets on the brakes. Firmly, not hard and I'm trying to decide if he's brake checking me, or turning left but deliberately not using his blinker as I change lanes to the slow lane. What happens next is one of those slow motion things where you can relate exactly what happened like it took a full minute.

As I am drawing abreast of him and now overtaking him by about 30mph as I've not even lifted, my eyes are fixed on his right front tire which I know will be my first hint that he's going to cut in front of me and my headlamps are lighting it perfectly. I'm hyper alert as it took me by surprise that he actually IS upset and I don't know for sure how much of a nutcase he is. In the next fractional second, I'm still watching that tire as my front bumper draws abreast of his rear, and then it happens.

My wife says "DEER" and I don't see it at all but know she can and therefore it is in front of the truck and about to pop out directly in front of us from the blind spot where the truck is. I don't even bother to look up, cutting viciously toward the truck, focusing in the blink of an eye only on cutting in front of him as hard and as fast as the BMW will do it and as close as I can cut it to his truck. A full on emergency evasive maneuver the likes of which 90% of drivers will neither experience, nor see in their entire lifetimes (I have performed this exact test, though with max brakes is the standard regimen). No brakes - I'm sure I lifted but I never touched the brakes.

We had the usual detritus in the car - atlas, bag of apples and snacks, water bottles, two lawn chairs and a shotgun in the trunk, and my cell on the console. Everything went flying and shifted around. I don't think I missed contact with the truck by a foot, and we missed the deer by about 4 feet. I'll let you calculate the timing at 60mph (88ft/sec) but let's just say the headlight blob on its hip was the size of a basketball and seared into my retina for a second. That's close. The E46 snapped into his lane laterally like the ultimate road rage cutoff, I nailed the course correction to a T dead center in the lane, and never touched the brakes. In 2 seconds we were 5 car lengths ahead of him and it must have felt to him like we planned it. Which I bet was weird for him, as he was probably dead certain we were going to center punch the deer at 60 as he had the advantage of seeing the whole thing. We nearly pulled over to talk to him just to see what it looked like from his perspective.

In the darkness, I put my hand out for a high five (and a low five) from my wife as she gave me the quarter second warning I needed. And as we drove on down the road, I reminded her that this was her second EXACT same save from me hitting a deer from the exact same direction 25 years ago. Which we STILL talk about as the perfect example of a mind-melding couple. In both instances, I instantly reacted even though I didn't even see the deer until AFTER I did the big steering input - totally trusting her in that instant, and the extra instant made the difference.

A minute later and the guy was on my butt again, but a few miles down the road he passed and disappeared into the night. I don't think there was malice at all from his part, and I think he will tell that story for years. Back in our garage an hour ago, I patted the E46's nose and stared at it for a second, contemplating how much bent silver sheetmetal, crushed headlamps and broken windshield I'd have been looking at if my wife had not given me that quarter second.....

Drive safely, live long.
 

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2016 340i xD 6-spd
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Glad you all didn't die. Hope you avoid a third such incident. Maybe keep off that road for a while!

I'm comforted to know there's still a Doug in an e46, but still sad that it's not me. :(

So...what did you learn from this that you could pass along to others so they don't die in a fiery truck, deer, e46 blaze? :)
 

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Thank you for sharing that experience and the beautiful scenery. An exciting read. As a fairly new e46 owner, I'm amazed at the steering...just as you described in the beginning of your post. Have a great day and give your wife another high five and a big hug.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
It's a worthy lesson, actually. A few minutes after, I'd been quietly contemplating what happened. I said to my wife "interesting how another driver's actions can put you in danger even when they don't mean to. By that, I mean - the optimal and safest thing to do at that moment would have been to hit my brakes firmly also and retain space until I figured out his intentions." After all, when the brake event started, I immediately assumed he had nefarious intent. Yet I put him in control by opting to shoot past him in the right lane.

So, to Dmax's question, I learned for the thousandth time that almost invariably the RIGHT thing to do when faced with something ahead of you that you are uncertain about is to hit the freaking brakes. Honestly - I literally mentioned this not more than an hour ago as I missed the cat and explained to my wife how emergency braking assist works which almost all cars have. I think E46s have it for some years and it automatically causes your brake system to go to max braking by increasing line pressure when it interprets an emergency. Great system though it can be intrusive. Anyhow, I'd cited studies leading to this system's adoption that show drivers fail to hit the brake hard enough when presented with an emergency, and when later they go to max braking it's too late. And then I did NOT apply my brakes when presented with a puzzling situation and nearly hit a deer at speed.

So that's my lesson. Don't do what I did. Yes, it led to an incredible demonstration of the E46's deep reserves of controlled handling in a full on, true emergency and a cool post here. But the bottom line is I did not exhibit true mature quality driving skills. In fact, if the situation had happened in the absence of the prior tailgating and such, I would have hit the brakes until I was satisfied the driver in front of me was not responding to something he could see at night that I did not. It was not good to let another driver's actions lead me to place myself and passenger in danger.

To complete the irony and demonstrate my lack of proper processing there is this. We had dinner only the night before with good friends and they related a story from that day where they were on the freeway in the slow lane when the car in front of them hit the brakes "for no reason". My buddy is an aggressive driver and simply changed lanes to the fast lane without changing his speed and promptly center punched a huge turkey he could not see, which the other driver braked for. Probably 1500 damage to his new Kia Telluride. So to complete what I learned, constantly learn about driving, constantly apply lessons, and don't get either too confident, or complacent when you're going fast enough to kill everyone in your car if you make a wrong move. When something changes in front of you, apply the brakes rather than making a bunch of high speed mental calculations justifying keeping your speed.
 

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2005, E46 Convertible, 330CI M Sport, Mystic Blue, 76k Miles
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The guiding principle! Always drive at a speed where you can stop on your own side of the road in the distance you can see to be clear.
That's proper boring though.
 

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2003 330cic, 2003 325iT
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Out of curiosity, why didn't you just pull right and let the truck pass when he was on your tail?

It is actually the law out here that slower cars have to pull over to let other cars pass on twisty roads. This is because of exactly what happened to you.
 

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2003 330cic, 2003 325iT
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He was enjoying a cruise with the wife. Nothing wrong with that.
I get that, but when you bottle someone up you create a high risk of an accident. That person either tailgates or, worse, tries to pass and creates a situation where if someone comes in the other lane, that person will be murdered.

I'm all for a good drive, but it is a bad habit to assert that because you are going a certain speed you won't let someone pass. Just pull over for 5 seconds and the situation is gone.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Actually, there was no opportunity to pull right. Leaving Sandpoint, Idaho there is a very long bridge and then its the USA's last two lane interstate and doesnt open to two lanes until Sagle where this happened. There may have been a chance for him to pass and he missed it somewhere in there which is how my concern elevated. But I am absolutely the guy to pull right n let others by. Many's the time I have blinkered onto the shoulder to let someone by. I also virtually never block the left lane, used to have a tshirt against LLB's (left lane bandits), and the last straw on a couple we were getting to know poorly was a situation on the interstate. I pointed out people were piling up behind us n the left lane. The wife said "well Im going the speed limit so they can go around." We still chuckle about that, imitating that answer in falsetto to each other when trapped by an LLB. Never double dated with them again. Ironically, they have bought 3 3 series in a row so they have great vehicle taste! Anyhow not impeding here at all.
 
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