Summer highway traffic inferno

Is it the heat that makes drivers go crazy on our highways?

I remember many a snowy day in Cranbrook, when the staff at the Townsman worried about me as I left at the end of the day for Kimberley.

I received tense phone calls and voicemails from my parents if I didn’t arrive exactly on time, but sure enough my tiny Toyota plowed through the white stuff every time.

The truth is, I worry more about my safety in the summer months. This week alone I have witnessed and almost been involved in two serious collisions that probably could have ended in a fatality – the second one would have been me.

I’ll start with that one. I went out for an interview and was returning via the Strip. I turned my right blinker on to pull into the Townsman and slowed down. Something in my rear-view mirror suddenly caught my eye.

I did a double take, and realized a giant, lifted black Ford truck was barreling towards me with no indication of braking, or even that they noticed the little black car they were about to smoosh like a candy wrapper. It must have been doubling the 60 km/hr speed limit. It kept coming, it was mere feet off my bumper, and like the mature adult I am, with no way to save myself, I covered my ears with my hands and screamed.

With wide eyes I watched the expected collision not happen. The black truck veered into the left lane, without signaling or even shoulder checking. They cut off a red truck that with a camper so badly that the driver had to swerve into the centre lane to avoid being side swiped.

The whole time, I saw not a glimmer of brake lights from the black truck. I realized once it was all over that my car was completely stopped in the middle of the Strip. Luckily there was no other traffic behind me.

I thought to myself that the driver of the black truck will never know how terrified I was in those few seconds. He wouldn’t know that I shook for an hour after he nearly killed me. I thought about how he probably would have sheered off the top of my tiny car like a monster truck. I possibly could have been tossed like a Frisbee into the Townsman sign, only to crumple against it in a heap like old laundry. Had I been able to think in those seconds, I would have written down his license plate and called the RCMP.

The first accident I witnessed this week was a comedy of errors from two drivers. I was leaving Marysville on my way to work. Rails to Trails was closed for maintenance, and a number of drivers were pulling in only to discover it was closed. Many were waiting to pull out on the highway, but one car just had to turn right away. Myself and two other cars were rounding the corner going under the speed limit (which is a problem on that highway in itself, but I won’t go there).

The car turned left with barely enough room to spare, and at the same moment, the driver in front of me decided he couldn’t wait to start going the speed limit. He pulled out to pass the car in front and I was positive I was about to see a brutal head-on collision.

The passing driver slammed on his brakes, and threw his car back into the lane in front of me – again with just feet to spare. I also slammed on my brakes in the same instant, hoping to avoid the spray of metallic shrapnel I thought was coming from the collision. That time my defensive driving skills that my Dad has been pounding into me since I was 16 kicked in (if I had a nickel for every time he’s told me to “Slow down!” or “Be careful!”).

You’d think the passing driver would have learned his lesson, but he didn’t. I watched him pass car after car with on-coming traffic, tail gating in between before I lost sight of him near Way-Lyn Ranch.

I lose sleep over these near-misses, and I wonder what the response would be if I had a chance to ask these drivers if it’s really worth it to get there seconds earlier.