Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Beware the Blind Spot!

Admittedly these pictures don't go with the post. I've taken many photos of the flowers in my garden, and my neighbour's garden, over the last week and I wanted to share them. But you can witter on about how beautiful the flowers are just so long and almost the first thing I heard this morning was the unmistakable honking scream of two heavy metal bodies colliding at high speed. I looked out the back window to the highway and saw a mid-size red car doing what might be called ballet of a sort; spinning like an out-of-control dancer across the four lanes of pavement. It came to a stop with its nose pointed toward the cliff, about 20 feet off the shoulder.

There appeared to be a crumpled red parachute lying on the hood. No one moved inside for what seemed to be a long time, but at least there were no bodies on the highway that I could see, nor anyone hanging through the windshield. I recoiled as I thought of the dozens of cyclists who pedal past here every day, only a foot or two from passing traffic. It was unclear if the red thing on the hood was a cyclist, but no one seemed to pay it any attention, so I assumed it wasn't.

I could not see another vehicle, but there is a line of cedars along the road, so the view is occluded. My next thought was that a dog from the campground, or maybe a deer, had run in front of the car. God forbid that one of the dozens of little kids who are here now had gotten up on the road. By now several men from the campground were jigging impatiently at the edge of the highway, waiting for a break in the traffic, so they could get to the wrecked car. I couldn't believe that no one had stopped, no one even slowed down. Cars and trucks continued to hurtle past at 100 klicks or more.

By now the car's occupants were crawling out the passenger side. No one appeared to be badly hurt, though a girl of 11 or 12 appeared to have a broken arm or shoulder. Otherwise everyone was alternately moving and clinging to each other.

There was still no sign that another vehicle had been involved, nothing that I could see which might have caused the accident. An ambulance arrived and took the injured child away. The driver sat against the trunk with his face in his hands. One of the women started taking pictures of the car.

Some 15 minutes later man arrived carrying a zipper case, and a cell phone. Papers were spread out on the hood. He took pictures. Then the RCMP arrived, and just like that traffic slowed dramatically.

My neighbour had been at the office, which is just below the highway and the site of the accident, when it happened. I called out and asked what had happened, if they'd hit something?

He answered, "No, he went to pass a loaded logging truck, he got into the truck's blind spot and the truck driver changed lanes and hit him. Lucky they weren't all killed. It took the driver all the way to Peach Orchard Road to stop his rig. Took him all that time to walk back here."

Peach Orchard Road is a very long way away. But the weight behind a logging truck loaded with 50 ft. poles is enormous. That much weight doesn't stop on a dime. I can only imagine what that poor guy was thinking as he made his way back to the car he'd hit. He must have wondered what he would find as the ambulance and RCMP screamed past him.

They turned the car around. The crumpled parachute was the hood on the driver's side. The driver's side doors were in a similar state. Six inches from death. Thankfully there had been no oncoming traffic as he spiraled like a top across the road. Traffic is heavy this time of year. We waited almost five minutes for a break in traffic yesterday, so we could turn onto the highway. Next time I'll drive down the much longer back route and catch the light. Less taxing on the heart.

Passing a huge truck is a crap shoot at the best of times, but unless the driver of the red car was asleep at the wheel the accident was clearly the truck driver's fault. You never change lanes without monitoring the traffic behind you for some time before you make the swing. And no motorist in their right mind stays in a truck's blind spot for any longer than it takes to get out of it. It's a two second zone-of-death that may very well be your last if you aren't careful.

There were five - no six - lucky people on the road this morning. They all lived to talk about it and that is not always the case when logging trucks and passenger vehicles compete for the same space on the road.

And to finish with a flourish, a photo of our big red boy, enjoying himself in the garden on a sunny afternoon. You can tell by his expression how happy and relaxed he is. He doesn't drive.


Outhouse Capital of Canada said...

Hello, I have been too busy to post much or to leave comments

Highway 97 is a death trap, it must be the most badly designed highway in N America.

Deb said...

Hi Dave,

I can't understand why the speed limit is 100 k on this stretch when it's 60 k just up the road both directions. There's limited visibility and four or five cross streets on this stretch. It makes no sense. You live in a perpetual flinch just expecting a collision, or a truck to come hurtling off the curve into the park.

I sort of liked being tucked up away from the highway at Bel Air. It's lovely here, but the traffic is ferocious!