The Second Version

18/04/08

Keep Your Eyes on the Road and Your Hands on the Wheel

On Wednesday, I learn the hard way that the advice above is sound and wise.

I was driving my Daihatsu Terios up and down a winding mountain road travelling from one bank branch to the other (they have branches in all the most remote hamlets...), when I reached a sharp bend to the left - almost a switchback, at the end of a bridge. On the outside of the bend there is a building that looks like a recently-abandoned club or bar, and I was attracted by the decoration on the wall: the drawing of an Arabian cityscape.
I was thinking "Why in hell they'd draw that on a wall here up in the mountains? It must have been a theme-based club or an attempt to look exotic..."

When I realized that there was a guardrail right in front of my car (the one that had always been standing at the roadside and did not move to greet me, I must point out), and I was doing something like 50 km/h. I swerved hard to the left, but it was no use: my offroader hit the barrier with the front bumper first, then spun around and hit the right hand side too, grinding for a few meters while momentum carried my vehicle forward. The collision was loud; I probably stomped on the brake pedal but cannot recall; finally, the car jerked and skidded to a halt on the grass at the roadside past the end of the barrier.

I swore a bit, shut the engine and began worrying about the damage. But even if full of adrenaline, I was quite calm - the calm that comes from realizing that you have fucked up and there's no going back. I dismounted and inspected the fron and side of the car: to my amazement, it was intact except for some scratches on the plastic protection panels: they did their job egregiously.
The front bumper was slightly dented and scratched, but no damage occurred the the headlights or the body work. I was hugely relieved, but then I noticed that the front-right tyre was flat, and upon further inspection I found a sizable gash in its outer side.

I also gave a quick check to the guardrail, but except for the black grinding marks from the plastic panels it was ok. My conclusion is that the offroader's tyre, also for being steered way to the left, hit one of the steel posts of the guardrail and was ripped open. That caused part of the noise I heard, and probably also saved the wheel and suspension from damage by dissipating a good deal of energy.

The only option left was to install the spare tyre, so I drove a few meters to the club's parking lot - no way to use a jack on soft grassy ground. With adrenaline still pumping, I worked had and fast - then resumed my tour of bank branches. Later, I went to see a mechanic and he ordered a new tyre of the same type of the three fitted on my Terios: that exact type has gone out of production, but tyre wholesalers still have some.

Today I had the new tyre mounted - at the rear, because the remaining ones are noticeably worn and at the front the new one would pull the car to one side, and also had a suspension check: they were a bit out of register, but nothing dramatic. Not even the wheel had been damaged - that little Daihatsu is a tough beast.

So the net result of a few second of distraction has been 150 Euro less in my pocket and more scratches and dents on my car (I didn't buy a second or third-hand offroader to treat it with kid's gloves anyway). No real risk for my own self considering the situation in which the crash occurred: I didn't skid across the road (neither there was oncoming traffic) and at worst I'd have ended up in a grassy field.

My crash is in part mere statistics: the more you drive, the higher likelihood of accidents. But it's also for the most part my own fault: I drive a bit fast - not crazily fast (and that's quite impossible with the performance of a methane-powered offroader), and my driving style is more aggressive than defensive.

But at least I've learnt to keep my eyes on the road...

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