I’M in dread of being side swiped or ‘nose wiped’ on the road this summer.
Such has been the level of near-misses from people suddenly drifting in on my lane space or cutting across the front of my car, that I’m beginning to thing there is an epidemic of it out there.
For some reason – I don’t have a logical explanation but I do have one major suspicion – I’ve been the subject of several scares. So far I’ve escaped unscathed but alarmed: is it my driving?
I’ve had passengers with me on most occasions. They were seriously taken aback by the recklessness of the other drivers. Normally one’s own passengers are one’s loudest critics but I definitely was not at fault in any of the cases.
It goes without saying that I have my driving foibles, but they never stretch to becoming such close encounters with danger, I promise you.
I think we Irish drivers are among the worst for obeying lane lines. We either hog the outside one and force others to ‘undertake us’ or we straddle two, making it difficult for anyone to pass. Or we just drift over and back and force others to adjust – often abruptly for obvious reasons.
For starters, let me give you two examples of near-misses that frightened me in the recent past.
A Northern-registered Audi sizzled from the outside lane right across my bows on the inbound dual carriageway that feeds the N11 between Foxrock Church and White’s Cross and then proceeded to cut into another inside lane to make it onto Leopardstown Road. I would have loved it, really loved it, if a Garda car that passed a few seconds earlier had been a few seconds later.
The second one was different in character but none-the-less disturbing. I was approaching the toll booth on the M4, 35km west of Dublin, when a lady driver in her Volkswagen Golf acted like she wanted a game of bumpers in the approach to Cashier Lane. I gave way but that wasn’t the end of it. She did the same with the car in front of us (and then proceeded to take ages to find the money for the toll).
Not far from Dundalk, on the M1, a Hyundai Santa Fé drifted over-lane so close to me I had to take to the hard-shoulder. The driver seemed unaware that he was wafting across two lanes and nudging me into tighter space all the time. I had to brake sharply and let him off with himself. Not good for the nerves.
The other side of Belfast a speeding Mercedes E-Class shot straight across in front of me – whoosh. The driver obviously was panicking that he would miss his turnoff.
On the north side of Bray, I had to swerve to avoid a side-on collision with a Toyota Avensis whose driver hadn’t the cop or manners to notice I was trying to join the motorway. Instead of moving out a lane to let me, he seemed intent on blocking me making it. He even slowed down as if to taunt me. Why? I have no idea.
In my life I’ve found that coincidences tend to arrive like 46A buses. So maybe I’ve just had a cluster and may go months without another. Yet something tells me I’m being optimistic.
I’ll tell you what, though. It has shaken me. I am lucky in that the cars I drive are mostly packed to the gills with lane departure/distance warnings, blind-spot detection (alerts you to someone being close by ‘over your shoulder’) and all sorts of ‘driver assistant’ technologies. They tend to keep me on the straight and narrow.
However, many of those with whom I share the road also have new cars – and have these ‘assistants’ to guide and help them too.
So are these technological safety elements being ignored by some drivers? Or are they so boorish they do as they like?
All I know is that there is an intensity of movement, a sense of menace, on busy roads this summer that I haven’t witnessed for a long, long time.
It has me looking over my shoulder with greater fervour and frequency; I’m asking passengers to check too, half afraid that someone will appear from nowhere as soon as I make my move.
Everyone seems to be rushing; to demand they get priority.
So, am I alone with my side-swipe-nose-wipe trauma or are the bullying, dismissive, get-there-first attitudes of the previous Boom manifesting themselves in the current ‘good times’? I happen to think they are.
I wouldn’t wish the onset of another recession on anyone but, for sure, we had a lot more manners when we were ‘poorer’.