Tag Archives: car accident

“Oh… that looks serious”

As my avid reader (me) will know from this post, our car was damaged in a car accident last month. The insurance company told me that it is considered a write-off so my father offered me his car as he is no longer driving it. Last Wednesday afternoon I flew down to my old home-town of Crawley in West Sussex to pick up the car and spend some time with my Dad. The car seemed to be making a slight knocking sound, it may have just been the sound the car always made but I felt safer having it checked out before driving 336 miles back up north in the vehicle. The following morning we took the car to one of my Dad’s friends who works at a garage.

Dad’s friend confirmed that the noise did not seem too serious but he had a good listen around in an attempt to figure out where the noise was coming from. His guess was that the alternator bearings were knocking, the worse case scenario would be that the car would lose power somewhere and require a new alternator (cost approx. 100 pounds) to get going again. He could not be sure without spending more time with the car and I wanted to get back to Newcastle that evening, but he said that if it was his car he would drive it, the car had been doing very little for a couple of weeks and might just need a good run.

A little later that day I set off in my new 1998 Vauxhall Vectra, 1.8 litre, in black. It drove wonderfully well. I took a while to get used to the gear changes… well… I’m still not quite there… but the extra 0.5 litres was making a clear difference to the acceleration compared to our VW Golf, which I have always been more than happy with. The Golf was Ladan’s before wee got married, the Vectra will have to do well for a significant length of time before it can gain the same sentimental value as that Golf, but it was certainly proving itself a worthy friend on this journey.

I had chosen the A1 for this drive, over the M1, I always regret making that choice. It is probably 30-50 miles shorter but it takes at least as many minutes longer. The A1’s roundabouts and lorrys overtaking lorrys at slow speeds mean that even with long stretches of roadworks on the M1 the motorway tends to be the better choice. I will hopefully remember this next time.

So, eventually, I arrived at the nursing home in my smart black Vectra, spent the next seven hours with Ladan, and drove back to the flat in the early hours, still hearing that slight knock but pleased that 336 miles of driving had not caused it to develop into anything more serious.

Last Friday morning, after getting to the nursing home fairly early, I took the car to collect some parcels that were waiting for me at the post office, just 1.5 miles away. On my return from the post office my new Vectra started knocking more loudly and then the power went from under my feet. It was exactly as I had expected it to be with the alternator going, a loss of power that merely allowed me to pull over to the side of the road before coming to a complete halt. I tried starting the engine, but it was dead. There appeared to be a little smoke coming from the engine, but I concluded it was some hot oil buring off. I called the RAC to come and get me going again, they thought it was probably steam rising from the car but advised me to phone the fire brigade if it became more smoke-like.

After about half an hour the orange van appeared and I popped the car bonnet for him. As he lifted the bonnet his first words were “Oh… that looks serious”. This wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. I mentioned the alternator bearings and he had a good look around. “Something seems to have come away from under the engine”, he informed me. The car would have to be towed to a garage.

On closer inspection it was determined that the water pump had probably collapsed. Such was the nature of the damage caused by this that a new timing belt kit would need to be installed, as well as a new water pump, at a cost of about 300 pounds before they would be able to determine if any of the valves had been bent, and if they had it would cost almost another 500 pounds to fix the car from that point. So, I was looking at a bill of between 300 and 800 pounds, and later that day the call came and the final repair bill was going to be 780 pounds. Initially the fear was over whether any of the engine valves had been bent, in actual fact all 16 of them were bent and the head gasket needed replacing. Obviously the final cost of the work comes close to the overall value of the car but it has only done 50,000 miles and I would have been landed with a 300 pound bill for nothing had I not had the rest of the work done.

As if there wasn’t enough drama…

As many readers will know, my wife Ladan – who is in a minimally conscious state – became seriously ill on the night of 17th October (Wednesday) and I was also shocked the following morning by the news that a very good friend was in a serious car accident at much the same time that Ladan became unwell. I was contacting Diana (his wife) and other people to find out what was going on. I soon became reassured that my friend was doing well and that his manager, Bryan, seemed to be doing a sterling job of looking after his needs. But it was reported to be a very serious accident

A few days into our hospital stay I also had a little car crash of my own, I was driving up toward a junction on an A road where the oncoming traffic can turn across the main carriageway onto a central motorway when the road is clear or the traffic lights display a green arrow. The lights were green for me and I saw a car pull up to the lights in the lane for turning across me ahead. Having two sets of lights green in front of me and knowing I had right of way I proceeded at about 50mph toward the junction but as I reached it I saw that the other car started turning into the road. I have previously seen the results of other accidents at this junction and they have not looked good. Not only was I about to hit a car at 50mph but there were also a bollard and a lamp-post to the side of the road that I have seen other cars damaged by. I have also had a similar accident, many years ago, at 40mph and then I was knocked unconscious for a while, suffered temporary amnesia, and was in a lot of pain for about 5 months. “DON’T DO THAT!!!”, I shouted at the top of my voice as I slammed on the breaks unsure that I was going to see another thing in my life, feeling it ironic that my friend had just had a car accident a few days earlier. If you have never been in a car cash there is a strange sensation that you may be unaware of, and that is that time almost stands still for a few seconds. I swerved to try and get in front of the vehicle to avoid the passenger who was in my initial line of travel, then realising that, in spite of having had some kind of impact, I could still steer the car I looked for the bollard and lamp post and aimed the car for the kerb such that I thought it would not hit either, but knowing that the kerb was unavoidable. Kerbs can throw a car over or send them into dangerous spins, sometimes into other traffic. One last deep breath. A terrible smell of smoke. The road was louder, but I was sitting, the wind had been knocked out of me but I was still okay in my car, conscious, half on the kerb, the right way up. The other driver admitted it was his fault and seemed thankful that I had managed to manoeuvre such that everyone was okay. The other driver was planning to drive back to Cambridge following the crash so I hope there was no serious damage to his car. It was a very close call, the car is almost certainly a write-off, even though it drives, the side is dented from wheel-arch to wheel arch and the door is bent out of place at the top, but with everything that was going on the last two weeks I haven’t taken it to the garage yet. Ordinarily this would have been a frightening event in itself, but under the circumstances I just drove back to the hospital where I spent the rest of the night by Ladan’s side, which I enjoyed doing on the occasions I did it in the hospital, I would pray and just enjoy being quietly together through the night. A few hours of near-normality!

Bumper to Bumper on the M1

This evening I drove down to Tunbridge Wells from Newcastle and made excellent time. The roads weren’t quiet as such but they were moving very well. When you take a drive of over 300 miles it is inevitable that you will see some dangerous driving along the way, lately it seems very common to find two cars involved in a high speed road rage showdown on the M1, driving bumper to bumper not because of slow traffic but in a tit-for-tat battle between two angry drivers who keep undertaking and cutting in front of each other at speeds of between 90 and 110mph. It is insane, not only do such drivers put themselves at risk through such frivolous driving but they put all other road drivers at risk too, just because they can’t let it go when another driver acts irresponsibly. If a bad driver isn’t going to be reported to the police then it is best to put as much distance between you and them as possible, rather than letting him or her provoke us into being bad drivers too.

Of course these men and woman with their fast cars do benefit from high response breaking systems as well as incredible acceleration, the equally fooolish are those who drive in standard cars and abide by the speed limit but still drive very close to the tail of the car in front. Again, this endangers the passengers in that car, the car in front, and several surrounding cars on the road. If it were possible I would favour removing speed restrictions on motorways in exchange for enforcement of the 3 second distance rule being sctrictly enforced by technology and heavy fines. Today I saw a couple cruising happily just as metre or two behind a large truck, they would not have been able to see what was in front of it, they would probably not have survived if the truck was brought to a sudden halt, and the truck driver wwould probably not have known there was a car so closely tucked behind his truck. Speed may make accidents worse but accidents are caused by careless driving, you’re not driving safely just because you are sticking to the speed limit. The three second rule involes counting three seconds (try “one elephant, two elephant, three elephant “at a moderate pace) from when the car in front passes a particular point and ensuring that you do not pass that same point before the three seconds are counted.

I’ll be on the road again tomorrow, same journey in the opposite direction. My wife has been admitted to hospital in Newcastle because nobody has been able to work out what is causing her intense stomach pains and vomitting… no, she isn’t pregnant. Nobody thinks it is too serious but after two and a half weeks she has barely kept any food down, the doctors best guess at the moment is that the underlying cause is a parasite picked up on our honeymoon in Egypt, but we’ll know more as the tests take place. I’ve come back briefly to grab some things and save the fish from starving.