Fender benders, roll overs, collisions, multi-car mayhem — it’s a rare day out on the road without witnessing or listening to reports detail­ing these and other such incidents.  Danger, even disaster is an ever present reality along our roads and highways, reason enough for all of us to wish those starting out “a safe trip.”

While the .hazards of driving are indisputable, rarely noted and scarcely discussed is the marked frequency with which drivers nar­rowly skirt trouble, avoiding, by no more than a whisker, serious mishap. So even those seemingly unscathed can easily recall innu­merable times when close calls left them shaken but immensely relieved to have escaped harm.  Some manage to avoid serious dam­age and injury thanks to skill and rapid reflex; others offer no plau­sible explanation beyond sheer good fortune.

Trouble may lurk anywhere, erupt at any time but some situa­tions present higher levels of risk. Consider for example the impa­tient drivers determined to enter a main thoroughfare who attempt to force the issue and induce other cars to yield by edging well out onto the road.  One must, in response, swerve often at the last moment to avoid them, while praying there’ll be no oncoming cars in the adjoining lane.  Equally dangerous is the situation created by drivers unwilling to wait before getting onto a busy highway.  Is he planning to outrace the car traveling in the right lane or will he wait until it passes before slipping in behind? Such uncertainties generate confusion and a persistent pattern of near misses.  The same holds true when drivers cut sharply ahead of you barely missing your front bumper. And that’s only because you reacted immediately, hit the brakes and by the barest of margins avoided contact.

Let’s also not forget about the driver traveling in the fast lane of a three-lane highway who decides to head over to the center just as another motorist on the far right makes the same decision.  Both just manage, by swerving off at the last instant, to avoid colliding in the center lane.  Another occasion finds you in your car at the end of a long work day, eyelids growing noticeably heavier.  As you cruise along a straightaway, your eyes close, even as the car speeds forward.  Was it for a second or two or perhaps more?  You can’t be sure but you awaken with a start just as the vehicle begins drifting out of the lane.  A few more moments…but you refuse to think about it.

Finally there’s the matter of your brakes.  How frequently have you applied them and watched your car come to a stop within inch­es of an obstruction or vehicle up ahead?  How often have you gone into a skid either on ice or wet surface and had your brake take hold an instant before impact?  Virtually everyone knows “many times” to be the answer to both questions.  And recall those instances when, assuming you were in neutral gear, your foot hit the accelerator, and the car lurched ahead or shot backward.  Either you reacted quickly and found the brake in time or there was thankfully nothing or no one behind or in front of you. Once again a disaster was averted, but just barely.  It’s important to be skilled, even better to be lucky.

Leave a Reply