Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Death Bend

Although I've got used to most of the idiosyncrasies of Polish driving, what can really scare me is the practice of going round blind bends on the wrong side of the road. I figure that, if I'm sitting in the passenger seat with the best view of what's lies round the corner, but can't see what's coming in the opposite direction, we haven't a chance. However, the ability to miss the car heading straight at us seems to be a demonstration of driving skill. I tend to close my eyes or look out of the side window.

I now drive some 11 km from Młochów to Łazy on the school run. From Falenty to Walendów, there's a clear, straight stretch of downward sloping road with no hidden outlets, which allows you to get up a good turn of speed: 80/90 kph - the speed limit - in my case, but faster for others. This photo looks in the other direction up the hill.

From 2011 11

However, down the bottom, there's a blind bend. It's one of those bends that is just sharper and longer than you expect, but it is signposted. Even so, I misjudged it when I first went round, having to use the brakes rather than relying on changing down gear and using the engine vacuum to slow the car down, part of my current attempt at economy driving. (I suspect there's a slight optical illusion making it seem further to the bend than it actually is.)

There is the inevitable possibility, just as you get to the bend, that another vehicle will suddenly appear from the opposite direction, cutting the corner short, according to standard driving practice, on your side of the road.

Seen from the other side.

It's also standard to take a corner wide and just going a bit too fast, again standard practice, will send you well out across the road, not that the driver below has done so. Even so, comparing the pictures, you can see how tight the space is.

Still, having got used to driving the route, I thought that it might be just me being overcautious. However, after about five weeks, a car and van had collided. Since then there has been another crash, with a section of the railings by the side of the road being demolished, whilst the ground on the side of the road shows this, just near the curve.

These a bit further down.

And this, the latest, crash site. Almost all the ground marks are on the outside edge of the corner, but seem to be made by vehicles coming from both directions. This is well down from the bend and must have been the result of someone coming down the hill and around the turn at extreme speed.

Fortunately, there's a crossroads just at the bottom of the hill - the car has stopped there in the picture below - where the priority is against the crash route. Even fast drivers should not be doing more than 70 or 80 kph going up to the corner. My recommendation would be 50kph maximum. (Signs each side showing a 40 maximum limit might be helpful, but I really doubt if many drivers would take any notice of it.)

So, with the safety features in today's cars and the limited space for acceleration in one of the directions, maybe I'm still unreasonably scared. The closest I have been to having an accident was to see the rear of a car that appeared round the corner ahead of me sliding across my path, but the driver recovered well before I got there. There are no flowers or crosses beside the road, so maybe no one has died.

Even so, having turned the corner, narrowly avoiding the oncoming car or just side-swiping it, just around that bend there may be, as I have seen them, a mother with pushchair and baby, school boys larking around or someone peddling along calmly on their bicycle.

Death lies there waiting.

There are times when I feel quite happy about dangerous drivers committing suicide in their cars, but this is the sort of place where murder is just as likely. Perhaps it's just because I'm now doing a longer journey at school time, but I've been surprised recently at just how many of the very fast drivers I now see are young women (mothers?) with their children in the back seats of the car. I know that Polish women are often very tough and strong minded, but I thought they care enough about their children to think of the danger. Stupid of me, I guess.

No comments: