It was reinforced for me the other day that you don't have to be driving to be in danger on the road. You just have to be on the road, and I don't mean crossing the road. I mean when you're getting into your car which is parked on the side of the road, in this case, in Penryn Drive, Camborne, Porirua.
'It's obvious', you might say. 'You just make sure that it's safe to open your door by looking to see if there's a car coming up behind you. If there is, you wait'. Obvious! That's what I thought too.
So that's what I did. I looked up the road behind my car, a distance of 180 metres. No sign of a car coming down the hill.
Then I looked down the road in front of my car. I could just see, through the branches of the Norfolk Pine, a white transit van coming towards me on the other side of the road about 60 metres away. There was plenty of room for it to drive past safely. Quite safe to open my car door, and get in.
Or so I thought ...
So I opened the door and put one foot inside. And then, as they say, all hell broke loose. There was a deafening noise of screeching brakes. I was immediately covered in a thick cloud of smoke and there was a strong pungent smell of burning rubber. A low-slung silver/grey saloon car was right on my back bumper. I didn't even have time to be indignant. The white transit van passed us both, the driver of the 'offending' car revved his (it was a young man) engine and roared off down the road without a backward glance.
I was almost too shocked to get into my car as I thought of what might have happened. I would have been completely trapped between my car door and my car - certain death at the speed at which the car was travelling. And so I began to work out where the car had come from and I'm sure I know.
Opposite the white car in the photo of the view up the hill is the wide entrance to Truro Road. At the bottom of Truro Road where it intersects with Penryn Drive, there's a Stop sign. The entrance is so wide that there's a continuous yellow line for cars turning right and another continuous yellow line for cars turning left.
From that Stop sign, my car would have been out of sight of any driver taking a left turn because, apart from being hidden around the bend itself, there's a tree stump in the line of sight.
My belief is that the car that nearly hit me came through that Stop sign, arguably at about 50kph, accelerated as he came round the left hand bend into Penryn Drive - and saw me - much too late.
Now I don't want to give a lecture here, but when you've nearly been killed, it does address the mind. STOP means STOP. Page 159 of The Official New Zealand Road Code 2016/2017 says, and I quote:
At an intersection controlled by a Stop sign:
- come to a complete stop (do not just slow down)
- stop where you can see vehicles coming from all directions
- stay stopped until you have given way to all other vehicles (this includes cycles and motorcycles, etc)
- if you and another vehicle are both facing Stop signs, use the give way rules
- you must not go until it is safe.
But how many people do, actually stop? Do you? I've been watching the intersection on and off and I reckon that fewer than 50% of drivers actually STOP. Many slow down but they don't actually stop.
A few months ago, a friend come down Truro Road on his way to visit me. He stopped at the Stop sign, prepared to turn left, and was immediately rear-ended. He was justifiably angry. The person who rear-ended him questioned why he had stopped. Duh!
I'm glad the offending driver's car had good brakes, even though his front left wheel locked when he had to take immediate action. Stopping distance comprises thinking distance plus braking distance. He didn't have much time, or nearly enough room to do either. And he shouldn't have been in that situation in the first place.
The moral of this story is, use your thoughts to consider what might happen if you don't STOP when you come to a STOP sign. The skid mark on the road, stopping just short of my parked car, is lasting proof of what could have happened when he thoughtlessly ignored the rules of the road. It's many, many metres long.