This Road Safety Week, our motoring columnist Brian McDaid explains from experience why we should always be ready to react to the roads.
Suddenly there was a very powerful pull on the steering wheel, now I am heading towards the ditch. The windscreen is now covered with a massive spray of water. It all happened so fast and then everything seemed to move in slow motion. My vision was blocked, I was waiting for the bang.
It was a lot duller than it should be for this time of the evening, it had been raining all afternoon. I was coming from work covering a junior football GAA final. Ten minutes before that I was joking with a few fellow journalists about the evening’s heavy rain suggesting to them it wasn’t too bad and they were looking at me as if I had two heads on me!
‘Ah Hello Brian are you serious sir’ one of them called over to me as they were wrapping up the wet gear that covered their cameras and microphones, ‘rain is bad but rain and wind is worse’. I suggested but they weren’t buying it from me.
After that we got into our cars and vans and put the heaters on and headed for home. Behind me, a car was travelling very close and when it got a chance the car flew passt on the straight of the road. I checked the car’s speed by comparing it to the reading on my speedometer, I was doing 90 km per hour so the authority at which they passed me would suggest they were travelling a lot faster than me.
‘What’s your rush?’ I thought to myself as I watched the spray follow the trail of this car as it headed down the road and out of sight.
Then a few minutes later the steering was pulled out of my hand and I was heading towards the ditch.
The spray of water that covered the windscreen blinded my view of the road ahead. The flow of water running down the side of the road then was gone for a moment and the pull on the steering was also free now I was heading in the other direction, out to the middle of the road and into the path of a line of oncoming cars. At the side of my view I could see more water flowing out on the road and more cars coming in the opposite direction. I had no option but to drive into the flood again and by this stage I had slowed up a bit and it was easier to control the direction that the water was pulling the van.
Aquaplaning sounds different to what it feels like, it’s when pools of water after heavy rain lying on the road cause the tyres of a car to loss contact with the road and will have a pull on the steering, which was what happened when I hit this big flow of water running down the side of the road on Sunday evening.
The tyres on my van are not that wide (185/65/R15) and only on the van a month so it felt as if they cut into the water a bit more than ski over the top of the water surface when it hit the flow. A wider tyre which is the norm on a typical family car may have behaved differently and possibly worse in water like this on the road. As things worked out on Sunday evening I was lucky enough to get through this without any damage a bit James Bond feeling – shaken but not stirred.
I could just put it down to a near miss. It’s not the first time it has happened to me on the road, especially at this time of the year as water from fields along county roads end up as ‘ pop up’ fast flowing small rivers.
As I headed on up the road I caught up with what looked very like the car that flew past me a mile or so before we met the flooded road. They were travelling slower now presumably caught by the same water flowing down the road. We were both lucky to get away with a scare and both go to their destination.
There was a time that I was more likely to be that car in front, I had no patience to sit behind. A few years in the fire service attending car crashes changes your view over the years and you wonder – is it really necessary to be that car in front? Having said that it didn’t matter which position on the road you were when you meet the unexpected like a heavy flow of water flowing down the road, I know I was travelling too fast at 90kms per hour to make driving through this amount of water on the road very dangerous. That is just one of the hazards that you are more likely to have to deal with as the evenings get shorter and the weather gets worse.
Nobody wants to hear about what you should or shouldn’t do to prepare for winter driving maybe because we don’t get real winters anymore, well, not the kind you see on the front of a Christmas Card.
Our snow doesn’t last long enough. We wait until the snow arrives then we slip and slide about the place until it goes away. Between wet and greasy roads from heavy rain fall, falling leaves right through to frost, the road that you think you know will throw all these dangers up on to your path without any notice. In these coming months, every night or day you sit in behind the steering wheel, be ready to react for the roads ahead in the coming months
Hundreds and thousands.
And finally I couldn’t let this week go without saying a big Happy Birthday to a neighbour at the foot of the town, Jim Houston who celebrated his 84th birthday this week.
Jim was a familiar sight at Eunan’s Cathedral where he spent a lot of his life both in prayer and helping out opening and closing the gates every morning and night up to a few years ago. So a few of team that help out at the chapel landed down in a social distance planned visit with a birthday cake specially made up in Macs bakery and deli on the High Rd which was presented by Fr Damien, assisted by a few of the brides, Adria McGlinchey and Tina Carr Lewis along with Elanor McDermott who run a fundraising seven brides wedding for Jim on his 80th birthday at the Station House Hotel four years ago. I think this photo of Jim standing out with his sister Olive James who looks after him now in Ballymacool just says everything that genuine joy says and what it feels like to appreciate someone’s kind gesture.
Add that all up and then spot the hundreds and thousands on the side of the cake and your name in the top. And I’m back in the 70’s at the foot of the town waiting on my Uncle Miah Deeney to arrive in the old Model Bakery bread van with my birthday cake for a party at my Auntie B’s and him sitting in for a quick cuppa and getting a slice of cake before he headed off again.
Happy Birthday Jim Houston and
Safe Motoring Folks.