Ever wondered what it would be like to meet a car going the wrong way on the motorway? A driver was jailed this week for doing this on the M4. And it happened to me .. travelling on the M1 west of Belfast in the faithful Passat .. with my sister, mother of three young children.. Sunday afternoon. We were, as is my wont, ambling down the right hand lane passing out a line of lorries. There’s a car in the distance and it’s coming closer .. at 150 mph closer. I dived for a gap between the lorries and was fortunate to find it – then expired on the hard shoulder. And suddenly the other side of the motorway was all police cars and sirens. And my sister said, ‘I heard somebody screaming and realised it was me’
So what was all that about? First, the driver had a head on collision about a mile up the road. He was killed and, fortunately, those he hit were not seriously injured. I went on to Portadown and conducted Evening Prayer. I am a chap, after all.
The police told me that the driver had entered the motorway and had a minor accident. He was being interviewed on the hard shoulder by the police when he suddenly got back into his car, turned around and drove off the wrong way up the motorway. And they watched him go.
A year or two later, I visited the parents of a young women killed with her friend further down the motorway by a drunk driver travelling the wrong way.
It was a while before I felt confident again .. Never so close to death, I think. But thankful.
We have quite a number of prisoners in the jails I work in who’ve caused the death of one or more persons through dangerous driving. It’s a group for whom I feel a burden of concern. I know they deserve to be punished and if I was a relative of the victim I would be very angry. And yet I’m a driver and know that I’ve been lucky occasionally… The other thing is that for some of them the person they killed was someone they loved, in their own car, and that makes for a terrible guilt/grief combination.
But there is no record that Dr McDail went on to conduct Evening Prayer. A serious lapse on his part.
In my case, years back, I took a long ovetaking manoeuvre of a lorry down a straight A class rural road and on the right hand side in the long distance a car at a junction turned left without looking to his left. I braked hard and fortunately the lorry I was now alongside didn’t, otherwise that would have been an unavoidable bang.
It happens and we learn.
In Ireland, such drivers are still deemed worthy of election.
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