Vehicles whizzed by as a disoriented 78-year-old driver more than 140 miles from home turned the wrong way onto a treacherous stretch of Route 4 in Fair Lawn.
Don Chittum, the general manager at Jack Daniels Volkswagen, looked out Tuesday night to see the man’s Corolla stranded on the concrete divider between Broadway and the highway.
What Chittum didn’t know was that the Jersey Shore driver had been reported missing earlier.
He just knew that he was in serious trouble.
The man apparently made a left instead of a right out of the furniture store lot next to the dealership and was heading the wrong way where Route 208 becomes eastbound Route 4.
Apparently realizing his mistake, he tried to cut over the median onto Broadway.
That’s when the sedan became perilously lodged on the divider.
“He was incoherent,” said Chittum, who came running. “He had no clue how he got there.”
It was a hairy experience not just for the disoriented driver from the Atlantic County town of Dorothy.
“I’m in the middle of the road helping him and cars are whipping past me like nothing,” Chittum said Wednesday. “No one ever slowed down.”
Chittum had gotten him out of the car and safely to the sidewalk when the man suddenly turned and walked back into traffic.
“He’s literally going between moving cars,” he said. “He said he wanted to get his shirt.”
Chittum retrieved the man and had someone sit with him this time while police were called.
“He didn’t know where he was or who he is,” Chittum said. “He kept saying, ‘How did I get here?’ “
Police eventually blocked off both Broadway and eastbound Route 4.
An EMS unit took the man to the Valley Hospital in Ridgewood because of his altered mental state, Fair Lawn Police Sgt. Brian Metzler said Wednesday.
It turns out he’d been reported missing earlier by State Police at the Buena Vista barracks, Metzler said.
Sales Manager Tina Valenti said she and her co-workers watched the rescue in fear, as concerned for Chittum’s safety as they were for the driver’s.
“We were freakin’ out,” she said. “The cars are flying by and he ran right out there. Nobody was slowing down. Don has kids. He could’ve gotten hit.”
It was the only choice, Chittum responded.
“That could have been my father,” he said. “That could have been your father. If it was, you’d want me to do the same thing.”