Perception of youth 


“If I’d been driving, I probably would have avoided the accident” he said. 

“How do you know?” 

“Because I have more experience, I would have automatically gone into reverse, or gone out of the way” commented the old man when I told him about the car crash. 

I was sitting in our family car but I wasn’t driving. My son was. An L plate stuck to the front, one at the back, he was driving us back home, days away from his driving test. It had been raining, the road was slippery. We were heading up the hill at 25 miles per hour; slowly. Country lanes can be lethal if you come head to head with a tractor whilst driving fast. I know, I scared myself silly once; maybe twice. You might as well have a wall in front of you beyond that bend. You can’t see through hedges. 

My son was only 17, but he knew that. Two days before a white van was hurtling down this same lane, as many do, and gave him an all mighty fright. They both braked within an inch of each other. No harm done, but if there was any doubt that country lanes can be dangerous, this was a reminder worth far more than Mum or Dad’s words. 

Who wants an accident on their record before they’ve even passed their driving licence? 

As we reached a corner driving up that hill on that day, a car appeared around the bend. A couple of seconds later it had landed on the side of our car, the driver’s face a few inches away from my son’s eyes. Her door window was wedged against his door window. He’d braked the second he saw her. Our car had stopped. Her car however did not come to a halt. It slid, all the way into the raised hedge on our right. Her left wheels were up in the air, whilst her car was precariously at a standstill on two wheels between the raised hedge and our car. 

A few yards in front of her in the hedge, a telephone pole. 

Had I been driving, I would not have thought to put the car in reverse, as the old man suggested, am no rally driver. However, I probably would have reacted automatically and tried to get my car out of the way. The road is only wide enough for one car, so had I done so, I would have gained maybe a foot or at most a couple. An extra foot or two would have given her car just enough space to slide further down the slippery hill. 

The thing is, her brakes froze, she no longer was in control of her car. All she could do was slide. 

Had I driven my car into the left hedge at the same time as she was braking on top of that bend, I could have prevented her from being protected by our car because her trajectory would have been the same, her brakes still frozen. Her car may have gone totally sideways, her face could have been by the tarmac with her car on top of her. Who knows, she may have gone on sliding and roll over, or worst, met that lethal telephone pole. 

Nobody was hurt, thankfully. This is all that matters. 

The lady driver accepted responsibility, her insurance company took on the repairs. My son asked if I’d thanked her when we finally found out. I had. Yet the 17 year old who drove well, avoided what could have been a much worse outcome is the one whose insurance premium has sky rocketed because he was involved in a car accident through no fault of his own before passing his driving licence. 

He passed his driving test a few days later.

Yet old folk without context assume they know better because it was a young person driving. 

Funny old world. 

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