A disoriented driver pushed another vehicle more than three miles down a state highway Friday as the terrified occupants called police for help.
Police said the driver, John Graves of Ocean View, was taken by ambulance to Cape Regional Medical Center for a mental-health evaluation. Nobody was hurt, but the incident rattled two Ocean City summer residents out for a day of furniture shopping.
Police said they received a 911 call at about 4 p.m. Friday from Princeton resident Bill Quirk, who reported his car was being pushed down Route 9 by an unknown assailant in a pickup truck.
Quirk said the exchange began as he and his passenger, whom police did not identify, were driving to Cape May Wicker to buy some things for his summer home.
Heading south on Route 9, they waited at a light behind the Graves' dented and rusty silver truck. When the light turned green, the truck did not budge.
Quirk said he beeped his horn and when the driver still refused to move by the count of "10 Mississippi," Quirk drove around him. Moments later, the pickup truck sped up behind him and struck his bumper.
Quirk said he tried to pull over but every time he slowed, the truck bumped him and he feared he would be pushed into oncoming traffic on the 50 mph road.
"He just kept pushing me. He kept getting at an angle where I couldn't do anything," Quirk said.
And he feared that if he did stop his vehicle, he would put himself and his passenger in even greater danger, he said. Strangely, the man behind the wheel of the truck did not appear to be angry. In the rear-view mirror, Graves was not shouting or cursing or making any wild gestures, Quirk said.
"I called 911 and stayed on the road," he said. "I put the car in neutral and just let him push us."
For three miles, Quirk said, he flashed his lights to oncoming traffic to warn them about the danger.
"I was beeping and waving and trying to get people's attention," he said.
When police responded, Quirk pulled his car to the side of the road just south of the southbound on-ramp to the Garden State Parkway in Swainton. Graves slowed to a stop behind him.
Graves was taken into custody without incident, police said. Despite the bizarre nature of the altercation, the suspect was not acting out of road rage but from a medication-induced reaction, police said.
Police at the scene said Graves likely will not face criminal charges but could face motor-vehicle violations.
The bumper to Quirk's vehicle, which bears an OCNJ sticker, was damaged but the vehicle remained drivable. The truck, which had a surf-rod holder on the front, sustained a bent hood and was towed to a police impound yard.
When the vehicles came to a stop, Quirk had a chance to examine his assailant, who waited impassively behind the wheel of the car.
"He just sat there. He looked pretty calm," Quirk said. "He didn't seem angry."
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