Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy to be a Sunday Driver this Easter

This little family of mine is quite used to the long weekend road trip. A few times a year we load up the car and trek the 400km or so from Perth to Albany to visit Map Guy’s family and childhood friends.

Every time we make the journey, without fail, we see some dickhead overtake a truck or a caravan and make it back in to their own lane with only a second to spare. Or a hoon overtake us at 150km/h as we sit on the speed limit. The amount of near-misses I’ve seen is staggering. What’s the hurry?

This weekend was no different. One particular incident, right on dusk when then Roos are out in force involved a sedan overtaking a 4x4 towing a caravan and required the 4x4, the overtaking car and the oncoming car to slam on their brakes to avoid a head on collision. A head on collision where all parties were going over 110km/h.

And I just don’t get it.

I abhor the long drive to Albany just as much as the next person and this weekend it took us just over six hours thanks to the three million caravans and trucks. Sitting in one position for an extended period of time means all my muscles seize up and cramp so it quite literally is a pain in the ass for me. Add a toddler, a million requests for snacks, three thousand repetitions of the alphabet song and wheels on the bus (which lose their cute factor after the first dozen or so) and a farting dog and I’m well and truly over it and working out how to budget the exorbitant airfare in to our next trip down after the first hour or two. I’d love to get there quicker too, but at what cost? And I’m not talking about budgets any more.

There are a number of memorials that line the highway; bright white crosses rising from the red dirt as stark reminders of those who didn’t make it home. Throughout the year some are adorned with flowers, others with birthday balloons, celebrating the life of someone who will not be blowing out any more candles. At one spot, four crosses are clustered together with a fifth off to the side. I get shivers up my spine every time I pass it and wonder who those four people were. Friends on a road trip? A family? Were the children grown up or were they Tricky's age? Whoever they were, they were gone in an instant.

I’m reminded of the wise words of Ellen in ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ when she says “Clarke! I don’t want to spend the holidays dead!”. Do you know how hard it is to enjoy the Easter holidays when you’re dead? Unless you plan on rising three days later, then there really isn’t much to celebrate.

I’m not a saint of a driver. I’ve had three speeding fines in my 12 years of driving, have mounted my fair share of kerbs in car parks and once I even managed to reverse in to my neighbour’s stationary car and nudge it in to her $4000 road bike (don’t ask). Plus last year I found out the hard way that if you’re in the turning lane then change your mind and go straight, even when you’re the only car in sight, that it will cost you $150 and two demerit points.

We can’t always know what is around that bend, but it’s a pretty safe bet that taking it 40km/h too fast is not doing anyone any favours. I know, not all accidents are caused by speed. Fatigue, particularly on long highway drives, is a huge factor. Then there are the freak accidents, like the major crash in November 2011 where a horse wandered on to Albany Highway seriously injuring up and coming WAFL player Warwick Proudlove.

I can’t control other drivers, and that is the bit that annoys me the most. So I do the few things that I can, like change drivers and stick to the speed limit, to make sure we have the best chance of getting our precious cargo to its destination.

The pain of being in a car for hours on end is annoying but it hurts a hell of a lot less than burying loved ones.

Are you a Speed Racer? Or a Sunday Driver?


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