Monday, March 05, 2007


Jeremy Clarkson, in a development that I suspect will be temporary, writes here about how seeing the terminal results of a motorbike accident in South Africa has left him driving more carefully. This caution has paid swift dividends, as by playing safe he avoided hitting a little girl who charged into the road in front of him.
I was musing the other day as I drove down to the West country to my grandfather's 95th birthday party why it was that I seemed to have eased off the throttle in recent years. I've done a lot of driving, but the last three years have seen me move to London, and away from regular access to a car. I'd put my slowdown down to that.
But on reflection I think I can date my slight speed aversion to an event on the Livingstone-Lusaka road in the summer of 2003. Driving back in my ancient and much-loved Toyota Corolla (500,000 km on the clock - beat that!) I was passing through a village at more or less top speed - albeit only about 110 kmh - when about 500 metres in front of me a man of about 30 or so, but emaciated and extremely out-of-it, lurched into the road, turned in my direction and started staggering up the road towards me. I slammed on the brakes as hard as I could (though I suspect that they also had seen half a million kilometres of use) and, leaving molten rubber in my wake managed to stop with approximately an inch clearance - certainly no more.
If I'd been a second slower in reacting, I'd have killed him, there's no question of that. He didn't look robust enough to have survived even a mild impact. I actually wasn't going a particularly inappropriate speed but the shock still made me feel distinctly uneasy all the rest of the journey, and killed off most of my affection for risk-taking on the roads. Apart from anything else, I still see his face occasionally in nightmares.


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