Ironically, I was considering two topics to discuss here when I encountered two different situations on the highway recently. These incidents happened within 15 minutes of each other. In the first accident, I was traveling northbound 101 on Prunedale, just before the Crazy Horse Canyon Bridge. For some reason, cars like to “bunch up” in that area. Why? I have no idea. But as a professional commuter, there will always be a “safe-space,” or cushion, between my car and the car in front of me.
Out of nowhere, a newer model Volkswagen darted in-between traffic and made its way in front of me. In my commuter mind, it was important to not judge or get upset with this person. The main goal in the moment was to let off of the gas and allow my vehicle to naturally create a new “safe-space” for the Volkswagen.
A new “safe-space” was created, but the Volkswagen looked impatient and was barreling down on the BMW in front of him when the unthinkable happened. The usage of the word “unthinkable” does not pertain to me, but in the minds of the average driver. We are on the passing lane when the Volkswagen’s driver side rear tire blows out.
Good thing I had just created a cushion between us. The Volkswagen fishtailed and almost hit the center divider before regaining control and flopping off to the side of the road. Blowouts are always top of my mind during my commute and a “safe-space” is not for one to enter; it’s for “our” safety.
Fifteen minutes later I’m eastbound on 156 in San Juan Bautista. If you are unaware, Caltrans is creating a new 4-lane highway just south of the current highway; The current highway will serve as a service road. Just after the Valero station on the left, at the top of the hill, traffic starts to funnel down. Because I frequent this route, I know that traffic begins to come to a stop just after cresting the hill.
On this day, it was different. Again, I always keep ample space between me and the vehicle in front of mine. As we begin to approach the hill just after the Valero station, the SUV in front of me was at the perfect angle to block sight of any other vehicles ahead of us both. The SUV applied the brakes as if to slow down. I did the same, thinking we are simply slowing down before the top of the hill.
Again, there was plenty of room between my car and the SUV, but I could not see traffic ahead. Well, the SUV came to a complete unexpected stop. This was 100 yards closer than the expected stop. I quickly applied brakes to stop, checked the right lane for an “out-route,” and in one motion decelerated and swerved into the “out-route” missing the rear of the SUV by 24 inches!
Two lessons here. A “safe-space” prevents accidents. Secondly, expect the unexpected. Stay safe my commuting friends!