Houston’s freeways can certainly be scary places for even the most experienced driver. But what’s it like for new drivers?
Meet 18-year-old Justin Welling. He just graduated from high school in west Houston and he’s had his license for all of two years. And already he’s seen the worst of what Houston has to offer, like the red light runners, the speeders, the drunk drivers, and the lane weavers.
But these motoring mishaps don’t go unnoticed. If you’re doing something dangerous there’s a chance Welling has caught it on his dash cam and shown it to the world.
Welling says he got the device so he could document what happened if he was ever in a crash. But clicking around on YouTube he found he could use it for something else.
“I just came across a video from South Carolina and then another one from southern California and then started seeing a little bit more,” says Welling. “And I was like, Houston needs one. So I decided to create one. And I never thought it would grow to where it’s at now.”
Close to 2,000 people now subscribe to Welling’s YouTube channel “Bad Drivers of Houston.” He’s uploaded about 50 videos from all over the city, showing everything from aggressive pickup trucks on the freeway to reckless luxury cars outside the Galleria.
And after watching some of those heart-stopping videos we wanted to check out Welling’s technique. So we invited ourselves along for a ride.
“I usually try to be a really calm driver.” says Welling as he settles in behind the wheel. “I don’t really want to let my emotions get the best of me. You see those stories about road rage and that’s scary stuff.”
Welling says he used to watch truck driving simulation videos as a kid. Later came driver’s ed, which included both online instruction and real-world experience. After a practice run on a quiet section of the Grand Parkway Welling was ready to hit the freeways.
“If you’re not focused 100 percent you’re bound to make mistakes,” says Welling. “And I think that’s the biggest issue we have. As humans we’re in such a big rush that we don’t plan on where we’re going, we don’t plan for the five-minute traffic delay. And it makes our tensions rise. And I think that’s just what happens is we’re not planning for what we see out there and it affects our actions.”
So what kind of things show up in his videos? For one, lots of red light runners.
“And sometimes blatant red light runners,” adds Welling. “People who are already stopped and just run it. Most of those with a left turn. But still that’s so dangerous because the oncoming car still has a green so I don’t know why you’re going.”
Welling also shares some other frightening incidents he’s seen, like the time drivers on U.S. 290 were trying to get around a stalled vehicle.
“And people were going the wrong way down an entrance ramp, exiting the entrance ramp,” says Welling. “A car who was entering the freeway could have had a head-on collision and six or seven people were doing that. It shocked me because it was so dangerous.”
But that may not be the riskiest move. What about when people use the freeway as their personal drag strip? Welling told us about the time he caught two Cadillacs racing on U.S. 59. “And I thought that was kind of crazy,” says Welling, because the other drivers were actually forced to slow down so the cars could race.
Back at our studios, we asked Welling what was his best advice for staying safe on the roads.
“If you’re traveling somewhere you’re not familiar with, search it on Google Maps beforehand so you’ll get an idea where you’re going,” says Welling. “And look for the alternate routes and just always have a safe mind while driving.”
So what’s next for Houston’s popular dash-cammer?
Welling is about to start his freshman year at the University of Southern California, where he plans to hit the L.A. freeways with his camera rolling.