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Wild ride bumps, rattles drivers

A woman rams and sideswipes vehicles on U.S. 41. Some follow for an answer; it turns out to be low blood sugar.

Tony Talbott was driving south on U.S. 41 Thursday morning when out from behind an oncoming semi-trailer truck popped a red Pontiac Sunbird.

The car was coming straight at him, he said, going as fast as 80 mph. Talbott took evasive maneuvers in his air conditioning service truck.

"I tried to swerve, but she caught the back end of my truck," Talbott said. "My car spun onto the side of the road."

Talbott wasn't the only victim of the reckless red Pontiac Thursday morning.

The car's driver, Elizabeth Valdez, 24, of Lutz, rammed and sideswiped at least four vehicles before her ride ended on the side of U.S. 41 about 1{ miles north of State Road 52.

Paramedics said Valdez, a diabetic, was suffering from such low blood sugar that she fell into a stupor resembling drunkenness.

Witnesses arrived to find her sticking a cigarette backward in her mouth and trying to light the butt.

"She apparently took insulin, delayed eating breakfast, dropped her kid off at day care and then proceeded to bounce off of cars and play chicken with semis," said district chief Thomas Santell of Pasco Fire & Rescue.

Valdez apparently began her ride at her home in northern Hillsborough County. The first mention of the trouble came about 10 a.m., when several drivers reported being run off the road by a drunken driver in Land O'Lakes.

Three of those drivers, including Talbott, worked for Astro Air Conditioning, all heading toward a job in Land O'Lakes.

Talbott's colleague, Frank Hegedus, saw the Pontiac dart into his lane as he was driving near the Pasco County Jail on U.S. 41. Hegedus' truck hit a mailbox on the side of the highway.

"I put the truck in the ditch to avoid getting hit head-on," he said.

Hegedus said the Pontiac also smacked into a truck pulling a horse trailer. Troopers were unsure whether that driver had reported the accident.

No injuries were reported in any of the accidents, officials said.

The three air-conditioning employees fanned out in their trucks north and south to find what they thought was a hit-and-run driver.

Hegedus' father, also named Frank, found Valdez on the side of the road. Her car, dented on both sides, had stopped at the foot of a telephone pole just beyond a CSX Railroad crossing.

The elder Hegedus said he assumed Valdez was high on drugs.

"I got real angry," he said. "She almost killed my guys. If she had hit them head-on, they wouldn't have survived."

Santell said Valdez had no idea of the havoc her driving had caused. A glucose shot at the scene brought her back to reality. She was examined at Spring Hill Regional Medical Center and released, the hospital said.

The Florida Highway Patrol, citing her medical troubles, declined to press charges.

"She's a lucky lady," Santell said.