TACOMA, Wash. — The strange and startling video, which had already been seen thousands of times on Facebook last week, inspired reactions of “It’s a stunt” and “Did he lose a bet?” The video shows a car cruising backward at 45 mph in traffic on state Route 16 for miles, eventually exiting on Sprague Street before turning to drive forward again.
No one knew who the driver was or why he was driving in reverse. On Tuesday, after seeing the KIRO 7 story, the “reverse” driver decided to come forward and explain the story beyond the video.
“It was me. I’m Nathaniel Grayson, and I’m the infamous drive backwards on the freeway guy,” he said, relieved to laugh about a harrowing experience, which involved a crash into a concrete jersey barrier and a spinout.
“My life was like in danger, so I was driving with my life on the line,” Grayson said. “Turns out my car has this thing where the steering wheel locks up.”
What Grayson didn’t realize is sudden power steering failure is a problem owners of early 2000-era Chevy Malibu have been reporting online for years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigated and reported a GM recall for steering failures suddenly leading to loss of control. Grayson, who said he had never experienced the steering wheel “lock” while in motion before, reacted by slamming the brakes.
“I did a 360, and I hit the wall. Like, bang!” he said. Grayson said his car was now rolling backward with steering working again, and he somehow missed other cars heading right at him, so he kept going in the right lane with a very narrow shoulder.
“I saw the exit sign, and I was like, ‘You know what? I can probably make it to the exit.’”
He figured his reverse trip would only last about a minute.
“So I’m backing up, and I’m like, ‘Dang, this exit is really far.’ But I’m like, ‘I got this. Take it easy.’ And I just stay focused. I see cars driving by. I’m like, ‘Do they not notice I’m going backwards?’”
That’s when he got the attention of other drivers who marveled at his skill.
Grayson, whose car sustained front-end damage from his collision with the barrier, said he heard all the comments online about the video being a stunt. He said what actually happened was a small miracle.
“Really, I was just trying to save my life and make sure nobody else got injured,” he said.