I did a really stupid thing

This is my confessional. The other day, I made a serious misjudgement that could have had very serious consequences. Fortune saved me from disaster, but it shouldn’t have happened at all.

I was having my final drive of the Rover 400, as I delivered it to its new owner at Birmingham International (he’d got a train there, he doesn’t live at the station). I was only about 10 miles into my journey, but I was getting frustrated at being stuck behind an articulated lorry on one of my favourite stretches of road – the A44 between Llangurig and Ponterwyd in mid-Wales.

Lovely scenery and a car that's hard to love

Wales is full of beautiful driving roads, but they must be treated with due care and attention

I spotted an overtaking gap that I thought I could make, so I went for it, dropping a gear and shoving my foot hard down on the throttle. I was wrong. I was halfway alongside the lorry when a van appeared coming the other way. I had no time at all to make a decision. My decision was to keep my foot down. The Rover was entirely failing to really gain pace in a way that felt satisfying. Buttocks were clenched. My heart sank. I wasn’t going to make it. Fortunately for me, there was a layby on the other side of the road. The van swerved enough into it for me to complete the manoeuvre. I waved a pathetic apology. The truck, quite rightly, sounded its horn. I attempted to apologise via the medium of hazard warning lights. I felt like a complete idiot.

That was so close to being a really nasty accident, and it was entirely my fault. Yes, this road is short of good overtaking spots, but there are better places than I had chosen. Yes, being stuck being a lorry is frustrating, but it’s hardly life-threatening is it? My overtake was.

I don’t like making mistakes but I should have known better. This road frequently claims lives – a family of four were killed on this stretch in June 2014 – with overtaking likely to have been the cause. How on earth had I been so stupid?

The thing is, we’re only human and humans do make mistakes. I can hold my hand up and say I got my decision entirely wrong – but it was reminded that in a car, wrong decisions can end very badly indeed. If anything, modern cars encourage such behaviour, as even a shopping chariot can have a bit of grunt these days. There’s no way I would even have considered that overtake in my 2CV.

There are often calls to make the A44 safer. I’m not sure how you do such a thing without putting some horrific speed limit upon its entire length. But, it isn’t the road that is dangerous – it’s the people who use it. Only yesterday, I witnessed a Peugeot 107 (or similar) do exactly what I did – forcing the oncoming vehicle (in front of me) to brake to ensure the Peugeot could complete the overtake. People just don’t give what is a dangerous exercise a suitable amount of thought. Please do!

I admit to my stupidity because I hope it’ll be helpful to others. You really can’t be too careful when it comes to overtaking. I’m not saying don’t do it – I did plenty of it coming home in the XM later that day – but DO overtake safely. Make sure you CAN see a sufficient amount of clear road and have a good long think about what you’ll do if a car suddenly appears around that next bend. It really is a matter of life and death, and airbags are sod all use at these speeds, as Fifth Gear proved with this all-too-real possibility of a head-on smash. You don’t want to try this yourself.

4 thoughts on “I did a really stupid thing

  1. Firstly, nice to have you in one piece.

    My personal enjoyment of driving comes from what I call the art of driving or roadcraft.
    By that I mean, perhaps driving like an instructor, such as reading the road, being smooth and so on.

    Its ever more challenging in our hectic environment where what seems an increasing number of motorists have little time or interest, its easier to race around and do as you wish and your valid point that modern vehicles encourage this behaviour.

    It is said that most drivers believe they are good and usually moan at everyone else, and this is where I try and find fault in my driving rather than criticise others.

    We all need reminding how it goes tragically wrong so easily.


    • Very much agree with both the original post and the comment. I completed the IAM programme and assessment a couple of years ago, and the one thing it hasn’t done is make me feel smug about my driving. I may not be more tolerant of my own, and others failings, but at least I am not surprised by them. As a consequence I am prepared for more eventualities on the road and I am much more critical of my own progress.

      • Sounds good Rob. I’m glad the IAM programme hasn’t caused a smug feeling. There is a danger that more education can actually cause drivers to be less safe, as they become over-confident.

    • I must admit, I do like driving as quickly as the speed limit allows, but I’m also a MiDAS minibus instructor, so observation and smooth driving are very much part of that. I fear a lot of people don’t pay enough attention for the speed they’re doing. This was just one mistake – a misjudgement. I don’t make a habit of it!

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