I was driving along the 401, minding my own business the other day when I nearly got caught up in what NASCAR announcers like to call “The Big One.” It really made me realize how quickly a wreck can occur at highway speeds when drivers aren’t paying attention.
In this case, traffic was fairly light and moving at a good clip. I was driving my Corolla in the middle lane travelling about 110 km/h (I know – slightly above the posted limit, but it’s often safer to travel with the flow of traffic). Most cars were whizzing by in the ‘fast lane’, which was by far the busiest lane on the highway.
I noticed that up ahead, there were brake lights appearing in the fast lane. A valuable skill I learned while getting my A/Z licence was the ability to anticipate the behaviour of traffic by watching what’s going on well ahead of my own bumper. Not surprisingly, few of the cars beside me in the fast lane noticed this until it was much too late. In no time at all, several cars locked up their brakes. Tires squealed, smoke filled the air and cars swerved desperately in an attempt to avoid colliding with the vehicles in front of them.
Some swerved to the shoulder on the left, but to my dismay, a couple of them veered into my lane. It took some evasive driving on my part to avoid a major pileup. I resisted the urge to swerve into the lane on my right, as it happened so quickly that I wasn’t entirely sure there wasn’t another vehicle there. Nonetheless, for a few seconds, there were three cars occupying two lanes with nary an inch between us.
Four-wheelers who don’t pay attention to what they’re doing are a real menace on our highways. This is not groundbreaking news, but when I found myself nearly a victim of their carelessness, it really ticked me off. I see more and more four-wheelers with cell phones glued to their ears and DVDs playing in their minivans. I know I’m preaching to the choir with this posting, as most professional drivers know enough to focus their attention on the task at hand – driving!
But even if you’re paying attention to what you’re doing and driving in a safe and courteous manner, there are no guarantees the guy beside you is doing the same.
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies