Urban Legends

The Dangers of Cruise Control

The Legend

Submitted March 2005

A 36 year old female had an accident several weeks ago and totaled her van. A resident of Kilgore, Texas, she was traveling between Kilgore & Trout. It was raining, though not excessively, when her van suddenly began to hydroplane and literally flew through the air. It smashed into the side of a cliff and was so badly crushed that it took authorities days to realize what the wreckage was of!

What this woman should have known is something that every driver should know -- NEVER DRIVE IN THE RAIN WITH YOUR CRUISE CONTROL ON. Here's exactly what happened:

It was raining. The woman thought she was being cautious by setting the cruise control and maintaining a safe consistent speed in the rain. Her blouse was wet from getting into the car without her umbrella and she needed to dry and iron it because she was on the way to a big meeting, so she took it off and plugged her iron into the cigarette lighter. Then her baby in the back of the van began to cry because it needed changing. She got up (she didn't have a seatbelt because she figured her airbag was protection enough) and went into the back of the van, letting cruise control take care of the driving. The woman's older son's football helmet was on one of the seats, and the woman put it on to make room to change the baby.

But the wet pavement made the van hydroplane! When its tires lost contact with the pavement, the cruise control tried to make up for the reduction in speed by spinning the tires faster. When the tires found the road again, there was a fantastic jolt! It knocked the woman and her baby to the van floor and knocked the hot iron onto the woman's blouse, starting a fire. There was another sharp jolt as another tire gripped the road, and the iron and flaming shirt were thrown into the air so hard that they smashed through the van's moon roof and right into the rooftop rack where the woman had stored a JATO engine that she was bringing to her husband to do some dry-lakebed speed tests. The engine ignited with enough force to launch a military transport plane. The van flew into the air and the woman with her baby were tossed to the back where they smashed through the van's rear doors.

The woman and baby were lucky to land in the bushes right next to where the van smashed into a cliff wall at over 200 miles per hour.

The woman was stunned and was still just standing there holding her baby when a highway patrol officer arrived. He got out of his patrol car, took one look at the topless, flame-scorched woman still wearing the football helmet and said, "I hope your team wins, lady."


Behind the Legend

All that needs to be added to this cautionary tale -- based on a real-life incident that occurred in 2002 to one Deirdre Abbey -- are a couple of details.

First, the woman displayed a lack of judgment that went well beyond using cruise control in the rain. For example, she used disposable diapers on her baby, which is not very environmentally conscious.

Second, the story in circulation has been "cleaned up" a bit for public dissemination. Ms. Abbey was actually ironing her entire outfit at the time of the incident and had removed her bra with the intention of breast feeding her child after she changed it, thus she was actually wearing nothing but the helmet and panties when she was found.

And finally, the woman received multiple traffic tickets after the incident, including ones for speeding, unsafe driving, child endangerment, littering, breaking various fire-marshal regulations, illegal parking, damaging public property (the cliff), indecency, and operating an aircraft without a pilot's license.

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