Back on Friday the 19th I’d learned from the radio on the way home from work that there were major tailbacks joining the M6 from the M62 due to a festival taking place over that weekend. With the drive up to Scotland ahead of me that night I decided to take it easy when I got home – have some food, put a wash on, tidy up a bit and “clear my desk” on the internet before heading off.
Unfortunately I got completely sidetracked and ended up rushing to fill the car as 9pm loomed, before finally rolling out of the driveway at just after the hour. I wasn’t too bothered – I figured the traffic would have died down on the M6 and that the road up to Scotland would be fairly empty. A half an hour later and I found I was right on the money – there were no queues, the M6 was relatively clear, and the evening was dry, so I got my motorway driving head on and settled in for the three hours that lay ahead.
A short time later the weather turned on me. It had already been a bit gusty and our Honda Jazz is no party in crosswinds, I can tell you. But with lashing rain and, without incriminating myself, sitting at a speed that was possibly a bit fast for the conditions, I had a few heart skipping moments as the usual motorway idiots swerved about around me
Even so, the journey went without note until, at around half past ten, I came up behind one truck overtaking another with a Land Rover occupying the outside lane – the latter having moved out to give the trucks room to pass. I lifted off the loud pedal and let myself cruise up to the group just as the overtaking truck was pulling back into the inside lane.
The Land Rover driver stayed in the outside lane, indicating his intention to get back into the middle lane, so I held position a good two seconds behind, giving him plenty of space. I don’t know if he thought I should have undertaken him, but curiously he stayed out there for a good ten seconds with his indicator blinking away – an age at motorway speeds.
What he did next just defied belief, given the wind, rain and the vehicle he was driving. With a sharp turn of the wheel he swerved back into the middle lane, unbalancing the Land Rover and causing it to roll from one wheel to the other. As the driver wrestled with the wheel to control it, I immediately sensed things could get worse and covered the brake.
It all seemed to happen very slowly indeed. As the sway of the Land Rover got worse, it began hopping from its left wheels to its right, yet, for some reason, the driver chose not to slow down. I first thought he would panic and slam on the brakes, but he kept his foot in it and tried to steer his way out of it.
“Oh no.” I said to myself, “He’s not saving this.”
Sure enough the old four by four swerved violently into the outside lane, then back into the middle lane, before making a final lurch to the outside, then cutting a sharp arc across all three lanes in a shower of sparks as its wheel rims hit the asphalt. It was quite a cool effect, actually; the sparks passing over my car. If you play enough driving games you come to expect that kind of thing, but as a rule it doesn’t tend to happen much in real life.
The trucker who had been overtaking as I joined the group had also anticipated the accident and slowed to a crawl. He immediately put his hazard lights on and pulled onto the hard shoulder after the Land Rover passed in front of him and disappeared into the bushes by the side of the road.
As I slowed I spotted the headlights pointing back out from the greenery, noting that the occupants had been really lucky not to have it roll on them with the sheer force of the turn that took them to the scene of the accident. With the trucker stopping I didn’t know what to do next. I had a small torch in the glove compartment and a car incapable of towing a Land Rover out of a ditch.
Two cars that were probably racing each other passed at well over the speed limit at that point – one of them swerving to avoid the mobile chicane I posed by crawling along at 20mph. I figured that was reason enough to get back up to full speed and continue my journey. Hopefully everyone made it out unscathed and the trucker earned some bonus points for stopping to help. But me, I was on my way.
“Why did he turn so sharply?, Why didn’t he slow down?, Did I cause him to do that at all?” I asked myself repeatedly over the next hour or so of motoring in the darkness. It had been a close call and I could so easily have been involved, so it was hard to put the crash out of my mind.
Before I knew it I was closing in on Glasgow and confident of making Helensburgh by 1am. That was when I got diverted off of the motorway at Hamilton without a clue where I was and with the road atlas neatly stowed under the folded flat rear seats which had a pair of mountain bikes on top of them. Bollocks!
Driving around aimlessly trying to work out where to go, I happened upon Motherwell station and figured that armed with a landmark like that, a quick call to Crazy Uncle John would have me heading the right direction, which was indeed the case. He can be a handy man to have on the other end of the phone, sometimes.
I think the diversion maybe only cost me half an hour, but as it was closing in on 1am by the time I got to Glasgow and I was feeling sleepy, I chose to drive down Great Western Road with its frequent traffic lights to keep me awake instead of looping out by the airport on the motorway.
However, just after Anniesland the police had blocked off the road and sent me on another diversion up into a housing estate with a maze of roads to navigate. I probably lost another ten minutes driving around there, before finding my way out where the police had formed the other end of their road block.
At around half past one I rolled up outside my parents house, four and a half hours after leaving home.
Screw doing that journey at night again – an early morning departure is the way to go.