Monday, 19 May 2008

I was headed to a friend’s house Sunday afternoon, driving West along 40th Ave in Woodbury, and it was in this middle-of-nowhere location that I came close to death. Much closer than I could ever be comfortable with.

40th is a two-lane road that is straight, flat, and open, with a 55 MPH speed limit. You can see what’s coming a mile ahead, easy. There are some groupings of trees here and there, but they’re set back from the road by 30-40 feet.

It was shortly after 1 PM and the sky was clear. Not being completely familiar with that section of road, I was doing a little under the speed limit. I saw the SUV pull up to the stop sign at a cross-street roughly 1000 feet ahead. They had a stop sign, I did not, so there was no reason for me to slow down very much.

Unless, of course, the SUV decides to enter the intersection…then stop half-way through completely blocking my side of the road. The driver either hadn’t bothered to look or didn’t see me. I’m thinking didn’t look, because I saw them pull up to the intersection and stop in the first place. Doesn’t matter, because there was no way they could have cleared the intersection before I got there.

When they pulled out I had less than 300 feet before reaching the intersection. That’s .06 mile — well under 1/10th mile. 300 feet until disaster. 300 feet from death. 50 MPH is roughly 73 feet per second, so 300 feet goes by in just a hair over 4 seconds. 4 seconds to realize what’s happening, evaluate options, and execute what you hope is the best choice. The 60-0 braking distance on my car is around 120 feet. That’s half the time I had before meeting with what seemed certain disaster.

That’s 2 seconds from death.

Luckily time stood still. I slammed on the brakes, swerved around the front end of the SUV, then punched it to get back my own side of the road before someone else came along. If I had a passenger, they could have reached out to touch the SUV’s front-end on the way by.

I have no idea why the SUV stopped. If they hadn’t, or if there had been a car coming the opposite direction, people would have died — not the least of which would have been me. There would have been no way to avoid it.

I don’t mind the occasional test of my car’s handling capabilities, but I’d rather do so on my own terms and without the involvement of anyone else on the road.

Thankfully the final 5 minutes of my journey passed without further incident, but I had to sit for 15 minutes just to stop shaking.