If you ever use the blogroll listing on this blog, you might have noticed by now that I link to two ambulance blogs and a couple of police blogs. I particularly like Random Acts of Reality and Inspector Gadget, both for their views, but mainly for the interesting stories that they tell about the viscitudes of their jobs.
I almost became one of those viscitudes yesterday. I was driving down Burns Bay Rd on the north shore, which is a steep and twisty road, when I spotted an ambulance with flashing lights coming up fast behind the traffic. Burns Bay Rd is two lanes each way, but it is twisty and nasty enough to have a concrete barrier down the middle of it to stop cars coming down the hill from crossing over and smashing into cars coming up the hill. I managed to get out of the way of the ambulance in a jiffy, which was not easy by the way - as it got really close, I realised it was also on sirens, but I didn't hear them until it was only about 50 yards away. I didn't have the radio blaring at all - I was listening to a talk on Radio National of all things (more about that some other time). Modern cars as so well insulated, you just can't hear sirens anymore if all the windows are up.
So I gets outa da way by getting into the left lane and slowing to about 30 to let it past. There was a bit of traffic, but it was all ahead of me, so once the ambulance was past, I just ambled down the hill behind it.
OK, here's the picture. It's raining lightly (as opposed to now, when it is pouring down), and the road is slightly slippery. The speed limit is 60, and anyone with an ounce of sense keeps to that on this road, and slows down a bit for the really nasty corners. If your tyres are good and the suspension is in good working order, any vehicle should have no concerns keeping a grip on the wet tarmac at that speed.
So I am in the left lane, doing about 40, and the ambulance is in the right lane, doing about the same. I had expected it to speed up to 60, thinking that it was on its way to a hospital somewhere, but it just stuck to about that speed, so it didn't get away from me. It simply stayed off my right beam a few lengths ahead, with both of us doing the same speed.
Then we came around a corner, and the ambulance swerved into my lane and came to an abrupt halt right in front of me. Now that was a surprise, and I managed to avoid plowing into the back of it by a quick application of the brakes. There, on the side of the road, was a small black car (like a Barina) that was entirely off the road (in the trees) and facing the wrong way. It was not badly smashed up by any means - it looked like it had gone for a spin and collected a small tree, resulting in some panel damage but not much else. From my 1 second glance as I went past, I reckon I would have driven it away if it was me behind the wheel.
But who knows what happened to the driver (and passenger?), and what the other side of the car looked like. There could have been a star picket stuck through the driver's door for all I know, impaling the driver.
Anyway, I got around the ambulance and continued on my merry way.
Now, here are the interesting points.
The car was just sitting there, with no one around. I have been in a few prangs, have witnessed a few prangs, and have turned up moments after a prang, and there have always been people around. Someone gets posted at either end of the road to warn traffic and flag down the emergency services when they arrive (I have an orange reflective vest in the back of the car, which I nicked from another job, just for this purpose, and a torch for night time prangs). Someone is usually leaning over the car door, comforting the driver or passenger if they are hurt or shaken up etc. Cars are parked on the side of the road with their hazard lights on. If someone has been thrown out of the car, people will be clustered around that person, and there will be blankets (again, got one of them in the back as well, along with the first aid kit). There might be a tarp covering something if it is raining (got one of them too).
But in this case, there was nothing. It was like a neutron bomb car crash. There was just the black car, and no people. Not even an open car door. No one had stopped. I had at least expected to find someone standing there in the drizzle on the side of the road, waving a mobile phone at the ambulance. But there wasn't.
I wondered afterwards if this car had been driven by an idiot who had decided to zoom-zoom down this winding, slippery road, and had come to grief as a result of their own stupidity. If they had been driving like an arsehole, the drivers that had been putting up with their antics might have gone, "Ha ha ha, you deserved that, now I am going to go home and laugh about it with my friends and family".
I certainly did.
In other words, was it a Darwin Award type of crash? I could see no other reason for losing control on that stretch apart from incompetence or stupidity.