In his weekly motoring column, Brian McDaid recalls putting the lives of his father and two younger brothers at risk aged just 19 years and why everyone should now take care on the roads entering the winter months.
Four people were in the car that night, three of them knew that they had travelled at speeds of 100 mph!
In my own mind at 19-years-old, back when I considered myself a very good driver, I didn’t think of the risks involved. On the day I turned 17 years of age, I was on the road right away with my grey provisional license strapped up behind the sun visor.
I wrote this a few weeks ago as a recent event opened memories of a journey a long time ago. That’s what events do when people hear about them, along with feeling the pain that someone else is going through it also reminds people of things they have experienced themselves.
A last minute decision to go to Dublin was made after my employer at the time the late Andy Hegarty offered us the use of one of his rental cars called ‘Self Drives’ free of charge to go to the family funeral in Dublin.
A new Ford Escort Mk2 “Elite” was filled with petrol for the journey. My father, me and two of my brothers headed off to the funeral in Dublin.
At 3.00am we headed around the south of Ireland as you did in those times to avoid travelling through the North in the middle of the night.
My father left the driving to me. We headed through Barnesmore Gap on a 400-mile return journey.
Keeping an eye on the speedometer from the passenger’s seat my father would remind me to keep an eye on my speed, even though we were leaving it late make the journey to Dublin in time for the funeral.
The car was nearly brand new so it drove a lot better than or old battered Hillman Avenger, which we had and wasn’t fully roadworthy for the journey.
I considered myself a good driver and as long as I was driving smoothly, and not ripping the gears, my father was happy enough.
We were stopped at the Garda checkpoint on the bridge at Ballyshannon. Ask by the Garda my destination my father leaned over and told them we were heading to Dublin for a family funeral.
My father drove this road from Sligo to Letterkenny twice a week in those days, so they knew him and waved us on.
By the time we got near Bundoran, my father had fallen asleep.
As we headed past Tullaghan and briefly crossed into Leitrim before heading into Co Sligo the roads started to improve.
The car moved smoothly as the speed increased bit by bit, as we went out over the brow of a small crest on the road a massive long straight as far as the eye could see sat ahead of us.
Before I knew the car was nudging the 80 miles per hour mark and with the help of the slight descend over the long straight, I pushed my inexperienced driver’s foot to the floor to see what she would do.
By this time I could feel the presence of my two younger brothers as they leaned forward perched in between the two from seats.
The next minute the needle on the speedometer was shaking and so was I as I pushed the throttle flat to the floor as the needle on the clock headed down towards 100 miles per hour mark. (Or 160 kph)
I could hear my two brothers whispering in the back, ‘look Brian’s doing a hundred’.
It’s very easy for me to look back nearly forty years on and do a risk assessment of my own driving which had me travelling at 100 miles per hour in the middle of the night on a road that I never had driven on before.
I was risking the lives of my father and my two brothers 15 and 16 years of age and my own life.
None of us were wearing a seatbelt that night, which was normal in those years
So if anything went wrong that night we would have been in serious bother. At 18 years of age risk assessment means something different to a young driver when they get behind the wheel, risk assessment simply means what do you think you are going to get away with.
Rules of the road were only rules of the road whenever you were caught.
I still can recall the thought going through my head that night that I was now travelling at 100 mph and it didn’t feel much different than travelling at 70 mph in our old Avenger, which was about all that car could do.
Suddenly the car took an unmercifully bounce in the middle of the road at the bottom of the hill, which in turn wakened my father.
By the time he got waken properly, I managed to slow the car gradually to just below 80mph, which I still got a bollocking for as my father tried to balance himself to light a cigarette from the cigarette lighter in the dash to calm his nerves.
If he only knew what speed we were doing when he was sleeping.
It could have been worse in so many ways
When your 18 and mad about driving as I was, you never thought that anything would happen to you, it was always someone else.
We were lucky that night that nothing happened in that moment of madness and I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but I got away driving flat out and believed I was as good a driver at 18 as anyone with years of experience.
I could of being responsible for the injury or even the death of my father or my brothers. If that happened someone would try to piece together what would have happened on the run up the accident. Maybe the Garda on the checkpoint that night would’ve given evidence, him being that last person that we would have spoken to out the window of a normal family car before I went off and risked all our lives 10 miles up the road. The public would have judged the person that they felt was responsible.
100mph is irresponsible speed for anyone to drive at but the ones that are first to condemn are the same ones travelling well over the national speed limit every day and blame others for their speeding.
They blame roadworks and traffic jams for holding them up and in turn, have to blast from A to B to meet their busy timetable.
Over the last few weeks the dark and wintery weather has arrived nearly overnight and yet no one is taking into consideration these conditions, where both your chance of seeing someone along a dark roadside and getting stopped in an emergency, have both doubled in time and distance respectively.
For every serious accident on the road, I believe there are many like myself that have a near miss that never come up on any road statistics.
As the winter months close in, stop and think about how much less grip your tyres have on the road in wet and cold conditions.
Think about how much less you can see when you are driving with the wipers trying to clear the window for your vision of the road and give yourself a chance if ever an emergency on the road comes up and you’ll be prepared for it.
Safe Motoring Folks.Tags: