Water is Treacherous.
The hubby and I drove down to Portland this weekend to visit my family for Easter. He'd taken the first shift, so I took over the driving duties in Centralia. Having taken a nap on the way down, and picked up a delightful fresh strawberry milkshake at the Burgerville, I was well rested and alert. The rain kept varying between the showers and deluges that are typical of our beloved Pacific Northwest. During one such deluge near Kalama, I saw the black car shoot through the grassy center median, driving into the oncoming traffic, and moving far too fast to be a police car starting from a dead stop. The sporty black sedan hit a red pickup truck that had been traveling in the right lane, and both cars bounced apart. The red truck spun around and came to rest near the right side shoulder, and the black sedan also spun and stopped across the left and middle lanes of traffic, about a couple dozen yards in front of me. I stomped on the brakes, steered straight, and stopped our Forester at least 10 feet in front of the smashed sedan. The other southbound I-5 traffic also managed to stop without incident, though I was briefly worried about the SUV behind us.
Both damaged cars will surely be totaled for frame damage, but the passengers appeared unhurt. The driver of the black sporty sedan hopped right out and announced that his car had spun out. (I suspect he'd hydroplaned due to too high speed in the pouring rain.) The older couple in the red truck looked unhurt and made eye contact, and were using their cellphone. The cars really only impacted on their corners, and glanced off each other instead of smashing head on. But it's worth a lot these days to have a a safe, modern car with solid metal frames and airbags.
Several things went well for us in these few fateful seconds, and I urge you to reflect upon them.
- Our vehicle worked precisely as it should - being free of bald tires or other maintenance problems.
- As a habitual reaction to anything at all odd or threatening on the road, I take my foot off the accelerator and cover the brake. This is a solid habit that I encourage you to build.
- I also drive appropriate to current road conditions; I was probably going 60 or 65 mph in the heavy rain rather than the 75-or-so that I would do on a straight, sunny stretch of I5 where the posted limit is 70 mph.
- I'd studied up on anti-lock brakes (which our Forester has, in addition to AWD) and knew to keep slamming those brakes though they jittered as the ABS worked.
- I aggressively position myself within the flow of traffic so that I am away from other cars. Proper following distance (That's 3 seconds people, keep checking yourself.) is the only way in the world in which you can make more time. But I also speed up or slow down to move out of the blind spots of other cars, and to move myself out of their blind spots. In this way, I can give myself 'pockets' of empty maneuvering room that I can use in emergencies. I didn't need to swerve to avoid hitting the stopped sedan, but that space was available for me and the other cars on the road.