Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Close Call

Deb and I were on our way home last Saturday night on the bikes between 6 & 6:30 in the HOV lane of US60 just where I-10 splits off, the traffic was very heavy in all the lanes to our right, no surprise there. Debbie is in the lead riding on the right side of the lane, I am on the left side of the lane. There were no vehicles directly in front of us in the HOV lane, so most of this takes place in the lane immediately to our right. 

Traffic is humming along at about 75 when suddenly the brake lights on most of the vehicles to our right flash bright as traffic is suddenly coming to a stop.  I say "most" because a truck just ahead and to the right of Deb isn't stopping.  When the driver realizes the traffic is stopping he attempts to avoid the hitting the car in front of him by moving to the HOV lane, then he must see Debbie and manages to swing partly back into his lane clearing our path.  All around us vehicles are slamming on brakes, screeching, smoke and that sickening thud that happens when two cars try to occupy the same space at the same time, fill the air.  The car behind the truck slams into the truck and the car in front of the truck.  The next vehicle, an SUV slams on the brakes, I'm not sure if his intention was to cut over to the HOV like the truck started to do or if his brakes locked up and the rear started to slide but in any case, the SUV is coming at me on a diagonal.  I swear I could have reached out and touched the hood.

As I said, we were hitting the brakes along with everyone else so we went from about 75 to 25 in nothing flat. Deb clears the truck, she checks to see if I'm OK, I'm clearing all the vehicles, I'm OK.  Debbie says "let's get the hell out of here" and we release the brakes and take off. This morning as I replay the incident in my mind, I realize that the SUV was not the only vehicle which stopped short of taking me out as I have a very definite sense of another vehicle behind me to the left.  Fortunately that area of highway has a breakdown lane on the left, I assume the vehicle behind us went that route to avoid hitting us. We were literally seconds from being road kill.

Training kicked in just as it's supposed to, we did all the right things.  The bikes performed exactly as expected, they stopped solidly and smoothly.  Communicators are a wonderful thing.  We often give each other a heads up when we see something going on in traffic that the other might not see.  This was no exception, a second before everything went to hell in a hand basket, I heard Debbie say "look out".  Maybe we were a bit hyper vigilant since a few minutes before we saw a highway patrol going full on with lights.  We did all the right things and I believe the hand of God had as much to do with keeping us out of harms way as anything else.  

Today, I am extremely grateful that we are both safe and sound.

Folks, please pay attention when you're driving, look ahead and stop texting, reading, or whatever it is you're doing that distracts you from the road.