Tuesday, October 21, 2008

There but for the grace....

In 1979 my father was taking me back to Catterick one Sunday evening after dropping my brother off at York railway station. As we drove up the A1 near Wetherby the traffic came to a halt with us all pulling in to the left hand lane of what was a dual carriage way.

It was a nice clear early spring evening and there was a police car on the central reservation with his blue flashing light extended about 6' into the air. Lane 2 was clear as was the hard shoulder and most of the wide central reservation.

Just as we came to a halt my dad screamed for me to hold on. This was immediately followed by a large bang and our car was shoved in to the car in front. Fortunately my father was an experienced driver and had left a good bit of space but it was still a hell of a smash. When I looked behind me I realised that the back of the car was on fire and that we needed to get out quickly which fortunately we both managed to get out without any problem as the force of the crash could easily jammed the doors.

The 2 police officers from the patrol car were there in seconds with fire extinguishers but our car was a blazing inferno within 30 seconds.

The car that ran in to us was driven by a middle aged man who was accompanied by his wife and three young children. Fortunately they weren't badly hurt, although there was lots of screaming and wailing, especially from the mother who clutched her children.

I never did find out why he drove in to the back of us rather than any of the escape routes he had; maybe they were arguing, maybe he was distracted by the children, maybe he dozed off. It doesn't matter because we all got out alive.

I think you'll understand that whenever I see a story like this one I shudder and count my blessings, as well as shedding a tear or two.

So, if you are ever approach a traffic jam, slow early and leave plenty of room for a possible escape, keep an eye on whats going on behind and prepare to accelerate out of trouble. It might piss people off behind you but sdaly these types of accident are far too common, although not always as tragic.


JuliaM said...

It always baffles me to see slow and stopping traffic on a motorway literally bumper to bumper. The consequences of a shunt and the ensuing chain reaction don't bear thinking about.

Even around town, queuing at traffic lights, etc, I still heed the words of my driving instructor - 'Tarmac and tyres'.

In other words, if you can see tarmac and the guy in front's back tyres over your bonnet, you have enough clearance to swing the wheel left or right and accelerate out of the queue if anything happens.

The Great Simpleton said...

I've not heard that one before, Julia, I shall remember it and also pass it on to my son, who get a bit close for my liking.