Commentary

A Hallowe'en Brush With Death

A late-night collision leaves a haunting reminder of the dangers of drinking and driving.

By John Milton
Published November 08, 2006

I'm pretty sure I came within about a metre of being killed, or at the least very seriously injured, by a drunk driver on Hallowe'en night.

I'm fine, just a few bruises, but as I think you will see, it was just luck, and some protective clothing, that prevented it from being much worse.

I thought it was a story worth sharing as a cautionary tale. We all "know" that drinking and driving is not cool, but maybe it's more meaningful when the results involve someone we know.

If this should prevent someone reading this from turning the key after having "one too many" then it's all for the good. At any rate, it's a bit of an "adventure tale" worth sharing...

At about midnight, I went out on my motorcycle to the "open 24 hours" corner store, which is about one kilometre from my house, to buy milk, eggs, and cigarettes for the morning.

On the way home I was stopped at a stop sign on a T intersection, preparing to make a left hand turn (I was on Ashford Blvd, waiting to turn East onto Maplewood Ave., for those of you who know central Hamilton).

I could hear a car coming along Maplewood from my right, but could not see it as my sightline was blocked by parked cars on Maplewood. At this point I had no idea anything was wrong, and I was waiting for it to pass in front of me so I could complete my left turn and carry on.

What I could not know, because I could not see the car due to my blocked sight line, was that it was on the wrong side of the road and moving at very high speed.

About 20 meters prior to the intersection, the driver fully lost control and collided with the parked car on Maplewood closest to both the intersection and to me.

I heard a huge "bang" from the collision. When I looked toward the noise I saw what had been, up until a fraction of a second earlier, an empty parked car, now sliding across the pavement toward me very quickly!

There was no time for me to do anything to get out of the way. The empty car jumped the sidewalk twice, leaving Maplewood and entering into the end of Ashford. Its rear bumper hit my motorcycle just about even with the handle bars, spinning the bike around and throwing me into the air. I hit the ground about three meters away from the bike.

It then crossed the remainder of the road, jumped the sidewalk again, went across the front lawn of a house, and was brought to a stop by hitting a heavy iron fence, pretty much destroying it in the process.

I say that I came within a metre of being killed because if I had been that much further forward toward the intersection when the car hit me, I would have taken the full force of the impact: run over by, or dragged under, the moving the car for 15 meters or so, or pinned between the back bumper and the iron fence that eventually stopped it from moving.

The driver in the car that started all this seemed to be uninjured. In my opinion, he was saved by the air bag in his steering wheel that had fired.

He did make several attempts to drive away from the scene, but I and other bystanders who had come out from their houses nearby were able to surround the car and prevent him from leaving until the police arrived.

It amazes me that his car (a Volkswagen Jetta) was still operational at all. Still, I don't think he would have gotten too far, as the whole front was crushed up and you could hear the fan digging into the radiator.

The car he hit was a total write-off. They did a roadside breath test and while I was giving my statement to the police officer, he told me that the driver was "way way over" the legal alcohol limit. He was arrested and taken away.

What also amazes me is that the damage to my motorcyle (a Honda "Big Ruckus") seems minor. Other than a trashed headlight assembly, which is where the car must have hit, it seems okay, and I have collision insurance.

My full face helmet seems to have taken the bulk of the impact when I hit the ground. It's now scrap. If I had been on a bicycle rather than a motorcycle, and thus wearing no helmet or a much lighter bicycle helmet, I'm sure I would have sustained very serious head injury.

Yes, Halloween is supposed to be scary, but not this scary!

John Milton a local writer and activist. He is the administrator of Hamilton Indymedia.

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