Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Avoidable Accident

Years ago, back in the UK, on a nice sunny day with perfect visibility, I was driving lazily on a straightish 2-lane road with few cross-roads & not much traffic – about as far from an accident situation as it is possible to get.

A nondescript car gradually closed up on me from behind, signalled, overtook, signalled, pulled back well in front of me & eased ahead.
A bit later, I watched, without paying much attention, as he signalled again, pulled out & passed another car in front.
Then, to my horror & disbelief, a car pulled deliberately out of a garage forecourt on the right (transpose for non-UK use) straight into him.
At that point, a head-on collision was unavoidable.

For a long time afterwards, I was unable to imagine how this accident could have happened.

Much later, I was sitting in a café opposite a T junction, idly watching traffic coming up to the T, stopping, and joining the main road.
Those who were turning to their right (transpose for non-UK) and therefore crossing the main road, stopped, looked both ways, waited for suitable gaps, then drove off.
Those turning to their left (transpose…) stopped, looked at the approaching traffic on their right (…) waited for a suitable gap, then drove off – without looking to the left!
Every one!

Suddenly, I understood the original accident.

Subsequent observation showed that drivers only look in the 'expected traffic' direction, including when joining roundabouts (reasonable) or when joining other roads at T junctions or slip-roads (NOT reasonable!).
Analysing my own behaviour, I found I was doing the same…
This was a chilling observation, considering the hundreds of occasions I must have been putting my life at risk up till then.

I have made very sure to look both ways for the last 40 years, but I still need to do it deliberately – it is not a natural reflex.

You should make 2 resolutions, if you don't want to end up some day in a head-on collision:
  1. Look BOTH ways before even starting to put your nose into a traffic lane.
  2. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER overtake across any opening from which another vehicle could possible emerge. Even if it is obvious he must have seen you…
Parting thot: "A lesson is not learned until behavior changes." - Gordon Sullivan - Chief of Staff U. S. Army

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