Wheels (Australia) - - CONTENTS -

WHEN IT COMES TO adren­a­line in­jec­tions of the un­pleas­ant kind – the fight-or-flight kind hard­wired into our brains to pro­tect us from bears in the woods wait­ing to eat our fore­bears – you re­ally can’t beat a car ac­ci­dent.

I re­cently lived through the big­gest crash I’ve never had, an ex­pe­ri­ence that left me shak­ing with panic and fizzing with fury.

The col­li­sion-course cor­rec­tion I was in­volved in hit me on a yawn­ing Tues­day morn­ing as a I rounded a pleas­ant city bend that I take a few times a week, into a lane pro­tected on one side by a con­crete bar­rier. The sub-hu­man in front of me, driv­ing, you guessed it, a Toy­ota Camry, de­cided to pull an il­le­gal, un-in­di­cated and bor­der­line sui­ci­dal U-turn across two lanes, and around the bar­rier, right in front of me, even as I ap­proached at I’m-go­ing-to-own-this-bend pace in a BMW Z4.

It oc­curred to me later, dur­ing many mo­ments of rewind and re­flec­tion, that if I’d been on my pre­vi­ously pre­ferred twowheel con­veyance, I would most cer­tainly have hit him, right in the pas­sen­ger door, and would thus have un­ques­tion­ably been hos­pi­talised. For­tu­nately, cars give you far more op­tions in these sit­u­a­tions, and I was able to throw the Z4 sav­agely side­ways (in the olden days, of course, I’d have sought the as­sis­tance of the hand­brake, but the mod­ern, but­ton-op­er­ated ver­sion is not so hand­ily con­ve­nient, a safety fail­ing if ever there was one).

Some­how, I man­aged to pull up my ve­hi­cle, now at 90 de­grees to my in­tended di­rec­tion of travel, right next to The Id­iot’s half

U-turned, ac­cursed Camry. With­out ex­ag­ger­a­tion, I be­lieve we avoided swap­ping paint, and phone num­bers, by less than a bee’s pu­bic hair.

My vol­u­ble and vi­cious re­view of this stranger’s driv­ing abil­i­ties may have left him slightly deaf, even though he re­fused to wind down his win­dow, but I felt en­tirely jus­ti­fied.

Still shak­ing as I pulled up at the next set of traf­fic lights, a man who had slid off Un­der­belly’s cast­ing couch and into a gang­ster-look­ing Maserati pulled up next to me and shouted, “That was some amaz­ing driv­ing, I can’t be­lieve that dick­head didn’t take you out.”

This led me to pon­der what any other Aus­tralian driver might have done in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion, the an­swer to which, in many cases, would have been to panic, grab the wheel like a life pre­server and slam on the brakes, re­sult­ing in a solid and sig­nif­i­cant col­li­sion.

Yes, I was blessed with the good luck to have been driv­ing a Z4, a ve­hi­cle that is en­tirely will­ing to get side­ways (it also struck me that, in such ex­treme cir­cum­stances, sys­tems like AEB are about as much use as brown-pa­per un­der­pants).

But what un­de­ni­ably made the dif­fer­ence in the end was driver train­ing; the many, many hours of it I’ve done as a highly for­tu­nate byprod­uct of do­ing my job.

In a world in which ev­ery­one was re­quired to do even one tenth as much – a world like Ger­many, for ex­am­ple – it’s quite likely that a lot more ac­ci­dents would be avoided. And per­haps, ide­ally, The Id­iot in front of me might have been trained to do a head check be­fore go­ing full Sui­cide Squad on me.

Any­thing is pos­si­ble.

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