Friday, 11 May 2012

Windscreen Number Five, Please

At least that's all it is.  It could have been a lot worse.

Thursday of last week, just after 7pm, I was driving home on the M4.  There wasn't a huge amount of traffic.  It was dull and overcast. No rain for once. I was in the middle lane, having just overtaken a lorry, doing around 70 mph.  Maybe a little higher than that, but not by much.  I remember the view from my rear vision mirror and I don't recall seeing any cars behind me, just the lorry over towards my left.  I debated pulling in to the left hand lane, like a good driver.

Suddenly, out of nowhere (so it must have been going fast), a black Fiat (possibly a Punto) sped past me on my right.  A car length or two ahead of me,  it cut the bend a bit fine and went over the rumble strip onto the central reservation.  Over-corrected and swerved into my lane.  Over-corrected again and, in slow motion, went into the central reservation, hit the barrier, spun and bounced to a stop. 

Self preservation kicked in somewhere between the second over-correction and the car hitting the barrier, and I was already moving over to my left before the car spun and a cloud of debris went flying over the road and over the Toy.  For a few seconds, I braced myself for the impact of the car hitting the side of the Toy. Or possibly its front bumper.  But the only things that landed were large pebbles about 2 inches across.  The lorry behind me pulled over onto the hard shoulder.  I pulled over onto the hard shoulder.  And stopped. Hazards on. Hands shaking.  Grabbed my phone and dialled 999.

"Emergency.  Which service do you require?"

"There's been an accident on the M4, east bound near Junction 8-9.  Car drove into the central barrier," I gabbled.

"Which service do you require?  Police?  Fire?  Ambulance?  I can only put you through."

 "Police," I replied.  A bit calmer.  Got put through to the police and repeated what I'd told the operator.  Then told the officer what had happened.

"Are there any other vehicles involved?"

"No.  But there's bound to be a shunt at the far end of the queue shortly." 

The lorry drove off.

Got out of the car and started walking back down the road to the nearest mile-marker, in order to give the police a more accurate location.  Told the officer what I could see.  A couple of men had stopped their cars and stopped the traffic. They got the driver out of the car and on to the hard shoulder.  As I got closer, I could see it was a woman. 

I was still talking to the police when one of the men came up to me and told me to move my car.  They were going to direct the traffic onto the left hand lane and the hard shoulder, effectively creating two lanes so that cars could get passed.  I told him I was talking to the police and was told, "Someone has already done that", I was told bossily.  So, I reported to the police officer that one of her colleagues was also or had also logged a call about the same accident.  Then told her what the men were doing.

Walked back to the Toy.  The others who'd stopped, moved their cars into the centre of the road, in front of the smashed up car.  Traffic started moving around it and the debris field.  There was no way I could get the Toy safely back towards the accident to wait for the police to arrive.  And it wasn't safe to stay where we were.  I asked the officer for permission to leave the scene of the accident.  Permission granted.  They have my details, if they need me, and I have a case number if I need them.

My phone tells me that the call lasted 6 minutes.

I drove off with my hands shaking.  Got home and checked the Toy.  A couple of chips in his paintwork, that's all.  It wasn't until I got to work on Friday morning that I noticed a crack in the bottom right hand corner of his windscreen. That windscreen was replaced today.  He's now on his 5th.

A very lucky escape.

- Pam


Mother of Chaos said...

oh, stomach just did a big flip-flop. I'm so glad you're all right! Windshields are MUCH easier to replace than people. :)

It always happens in the blink of an eye, doesn't it?!

PipneyJane said...

Yes, it's the split second decisions that make or break situations like that. But it's amazing how time slows down, too, as you react. Felt like the whole episode was a lot longer than 10 minutes from start to finish.