Wednesday, May 24, 2006


The Pedestrian, the Driver, his Witness and her Brother

Last nights meme prompted a few people to ask WTF I was doing running someone over, and I promised I would tell the story. It really isn't as bad as it sounds when you hear the whole thing and could have been a LOT worse.

It was about 10 or 11 years ago, before I was married, and at that time I drove a red Mini Sprite like the one pictured here. I still lived at home with my parents and usually I would go into work with them in their car, but on this particular day they were not going to the office so I had to drive myself.

About two miles from home there is a town called Henley-in-Arden, which has a busy high street which is best avoided weekday mornings and evenings at rush hour, but there is a road which bypasses most of it through a residential area and the towns railway station. It's a well known and well used rat run, and of course I used it. Being a residential road it's speed limit is 30mph and as it's a fairly windy road it's really quite impossible to speed on it, so before anyone asks, I wasn't speeding!

Also, before I continue, it's worth pointing out to N.American readers that here in the UK, if you weren't aware, we drive on the LEFT!

Anyway, as I approached the railway station, I noticed a woman, about my age, walking down the embankment to the pavement (sidewalk) evidently having come from a train and on her way to work. Now, maybe some of you have experienced this feeling, but in a split second several thoughts happened in my head.

Firstly I thought "She's going to want to cross the road."

Then I thought "She's not actually looking to see if there's any traffic!"

Then I thought "She's not going to stop at the side of the road!"

Then I thought "Oh crap, she's stepped out into the road, I think I'd better swerve now!"

And so as she blithely jaywalked in front of me, I slammed on the brakes and spun the wheel to the right as hard as I could, bearing in mind there was a car coming in the opposite direction as well.

There was a screech of tyres, then a thud. The left headlamp casing of the bonnet (hood) of my car hit her sideways on, and her head slammed into it before she fell to the ground.

Words can't describe how sick I felt at that moment. I got out of my car and the car that had been coming the opposite way stopped and a woman got out of it and came running up. The woman I had hit got up, which in itself was a huge relief, and quite naturally was somewhat dazed. After much fussing about whether she was alright, and her inistence that she was fine, it was agreed that she really should get checked out by a doctor, and it was agreed that I would run her up to the local GP.

The woman I hit was apologising profusely at how stupid she'd been to walk out into the road without even looking and that it was all her fault. I kept fairly quiet - I didn't want to make assumptions although I knew well enough that she was right. Then the woman in the other car, the one and only witness, turned to me and said "Are you OK too Gavin?"

Up to that point this woman had been a complete stranger to me, but she evidently knew exactly who I was. She obviously spotted my confusion, but didn't say any more and just took my phone number and said she'd call me later. Truly bizarre.

Anyway, I ran the woman I hit up to the doctors and waited until she had been checked out. They told her she had a concussion and should report back if she felt sick or dizzy - the usual stuff. We exchanged details and then I was on my way to work with a lovely head-shaped dent in my car.

Work was a bit of a haze after that but mid afternoon I got a call from the local police summoning me in to give a statement. The woman I had hit had been told by her colleagues that she really should report the incident regardless of whether she was in the right or wrong. To be honest it had never occurred to me to contact the police about it although in retrospect I probably should have as well.

I left work early and presented myself at the Henley-in-Arden police station, which ironically is on the very road where the accident happened, and I gave a statement about what had occurred and had to draw a little picture as well. The police told me that the woman had claimed total responsibility for the accident and that they were satisified I hadn't broken and rules of the road, so there was a BIG sigh of relief for me there!

When I got home it wasn't long before the phone rang. It was the witness woman who knew me and she explained that it had been a number of years since I'd seen her and she wasn't surprised that I didn't realise who she was. It turned out witness woman was the daughter of a close neighbour, and when I was younger I had for a time hung out with her brother. I'd never have recognised her in a million years and probably wouldn't even now. Anyway, she asked me if everything was OK and said that if I needed a witness statement she'd back me up. She'd seen the whole thing and verified that the woman had not even remotely looked at where she was going and strolled right out in front of my car. It's quite a relief to hear that, because until then I was still full of doubt about what had actually happened.

Shortly afterwards the woman I had hit called too. Again she apologised and offered to pay for the damage to my car. To be honest I was just so relieved that she was OK that I told her not to worry about it - perhaps in retrospect that was a mistake, but when dabbling with human life you don't really care about the cost of fixing up a dented bonnet. That was the last I ever heard from her and shortly after I got the car fixed up good as new.

I don't usually count myself as a lucky person, but I think you'll agree, in the end luck was on everyones side on that day.

How scary! I am glad that in the end it all worked out.
Oh I have never hit anyone with my car, but I often worry about it. Had some very close ones over the years though, and I have to admit some people I am tempted to run over just to teach them a bloody lesson!

You know the ones, usually teenage or early 20's, male with one or two mates showing how 'ard they are by strolling in front of cars and glaring at you. Ooh I so want to forget to brake one day, and let them see how much 'arder a car is!

Nice story though Gabby!
Lucky on many counts, it seems. She wasn't hurt seriously; you weren't hurt seriously, there are no legal entanglements, and you were able to drive your car after the collision, despite the lovely head-shaped dent on your bonnet.

In most of the US states, pedestrians automatically have the right of way. Drivers can only be excused if the victim showed very clear negligence. Although your case would probably meet the standards, If the young woman were American I'm afraid she might sue your insurance company.

Neat looking car.
My Utopia - Very scary...not something I want to experience again in a hurry.

Serai - I now exactly what (and who) you mean. Actually, we had some kids on their bikes kicking up the stones in our driveway one time, and I purposely got in my car and drove round to intimidate them in it and came ooh so close to knocking one of them off. I know it's not big and I know it's not clever but they never did it again.

X-Dell - I'm not entirely clear on the laws here, other than pedestrians crossing at the designated places. We've not quite reached the levels of the US for *blame culture* where you sue someone for the slightest misdemeanour, but we're getting there unfortunately.

A MINI!!!!

I love Minis. =P
Umm.. okay, now I'll read the rest of your post...
I kinda raced to comment as soon as I saw the Mini Sprite.
Indigotine - Actually that was my second mini. My first car was a white 1971 Mini Clubman, and was my grandmothers originally. It had a bakelite steering wheel and door handles and the ignition key went in the middle (where normally you'd get the car stereo nowadays. Loved them both to bits (literally to bits) and was very upset with the new minis which are an insult to the mini name IMHO.
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