Lucky escape serves as reminder

2012 HAS arrived and a very happy, if belated new year to you all. I hope this year will see you safe on the highways and byways as you go about your business.

I was heading down the High Street the other day with a loaded semi coming the other way.

As it came to an intersection, a Landcruiser pulled out of the side street in front of him. I swear that the poor semi driver had no more than 15 feet between himself and the Cruiser.

He jammed on the brakes and my life passed in front of my eyes as I watched his trailer starting to slew in my direction. He had nowhere to go and neither did I, with an embankment on my left.

The semi driver did a fantastic job of keeping his truck under control, and avoided taking me or anyone else out, for which I was sincerely grateful.

Close shaves are an everyday occurrence when driving and usually we forget about them the minute after they happen, but when a truck is involved, it tends to stick in one's memory.

The other reason this incident stuck in mine was that the Landcruiser was being driven by a learner driver!

Our Tom has just turned 16 and has his L-plates.

I would like to think that my instructing is a little better than that of the Cruiser's owner.

Getting into the passenger seat beside a Learner is a great refresher for oneself.

I started driving at age 12 when the world was a different place.

Mum would take me out regularly on the back roads around our town in the trusty kombi van.

She was a terrific teacher who never panicked and ingrained in me the basics of good driving.

She made me use the mirrors when reversing, rather than looking out the back window. She would hook up the 6x4 trailer and taught me how to back that. She would have me check that the brake lights were working - easy to do when backing up to a wall, for example.

"The most important things on your car are the brake lights and indicators," she would say. "Always let the car behind know what you are doing."

She ingrained in me the habit of looking in the mirror when I pulled up at traffic lights, in case the driver behind was off in space somewhere.

Moving forward a few feet after stopping has saved my arse hundreds of times over the years. She made me keep two hands on the wheel in the correct position.

She taught me about road camber and to look well ahead for things that may or may not happen.

She taught me how to enter and exit bends and to watch the edge of the road when blinded by oncoming headlights. She would not countenance tail-gating.

We drove in all kinds of weather, both day and night. We drove on the blacktop, on dirt roads and logging tracks.

The local copper took me for my test on my 18th birthday and we were out for only five minutes when he directed me back to the station.

"That'll do," he said. "I can see your mum's taught you well these past six years."

I reckon that I commenced my driving life much more aware of the dangers of the road and with a better understanding of how to handle a vehicle than a lot of my mates at the time.

I'd like to think it made me a fairly reasonable driver. I would hope that I'm half as successful in teaching Tom.

kermie52@bigpond.com

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