Tuesday, September 04, 2007

How to survive car accidents

News coming in says that three people have been hurt when the car they were travelling collided with a water buffalo in south Cumbria. A nasty business, no doubt, but I have a proven method of dealing with such incidents. A 1988 VW Jetta.
Some years ago, I owned such a vehicle, very similar to the one pictured here. With a full four (count 'em) forward gears and a mighty 1.3 litre engine to lug nearly a ton and a half of steel around, speedster it was not. But it did a job - a very good one - and had a massive boot to.. err... boot.
My daily commute back then was from Driffield to Malton, over the Yorkshire Wolds and through some particularly pleasant countryside. Obviously this brings the motorist into close proximity to wildlife. Many are the animals that succumbed to the tank-like Jetta - pigeons, pheasants, rabbits etc.
It surpassed itself on encountering a deer. Just outside the village of Sledmere on the North/East Yorkshire border, a deer leaped out from right of shot, ran across the road into the field on the other side. 'Phew', I thought. 'That was a lucky escape'. And it was, as I was doing about 70mph at the time. I'd not gone more than 20 yards when another deer attempted the same manouevre. I had no time to react at all, although I'd slowed to somewhere between 60 and 65mph after the first deer. Wallop. I hit it side on, the front of the car taking the full impact.
Life, I find, goes into slow motion when things like this happen. The deer slowly passed down the passenger side of the car, clearly already dead from the impact. The car lurched this way and that and I was fortunate the road was quiet. I pulled up in a small clearing just up the way and sat for a minute or two, breathing rather heavily.
Eventually, having convinced myself I wasn't dead, I got out to inspect the damage. It must have done something nasty to the front of it. I mean - a deer. They're big buggers them. My expectation was for a scene of twisted metal, broken glass and plastic. And what did I see? Nothing. There was no outward sign of my brush with the deer. The front left indicator wasn't working though. On taking a screwdriver to the lens later, I discovered the bulb had been knocked loose. And that was it.
I'd passed a service bus back up the road before the deer incident and as the bus approached, the driver, having seen the deer carcass on the road, put two and two together, reached four and stopped to see if I was OK. "Yeah mate, fine", I said. "The bugger's broke me indicator though".
He got out and was similarly amazed at the lack of damage.
"You hit that deer back there? And that's it?" he said. "Well bugger me". I didn't and we went our separate ways.
I got to work and retold the incident. A colleague wondered if you need to report dead deer like you do dogs or swans, so I phoned the local police to find out. "I've just clobbered a deer with my car. Do I need to report it?"
"Hang on". Rustling of paper... "No you don't. But you can't pick your own roadkill up. You've not done that have you?"
"No I've not. But if I told someone where it was, they could - theoretically speaking - pick it up themselves?"
Rustling of paper.... More rustling. "Errr... yeah. I suppose."
"Oh right. Well, thanks for your help."
I didn't get anyone to go pick it up, but it's nice to know eh?

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