Good tyres saved my life tonight. That and good brakes, knowing the road, and a healthy dose of luck. What brought me to that point started with leaving work later than usual, and ended with a tiny bit of inattention that nearly hung me out to dry.
I left the nursery at about 5:40, in the end, which got me to Crafers smack bang in the middle of peak hour. The freeway on-ramp at Crafers for the outbound direction is terrifying in peak hour by dint of its proximity to the Stirling off-ramp. Tired workers coming from town all pile in to the left lane well in advance of the on-ramp, packed in tight like sardines. They leave very little space between themselves and the car in front. If you are unlucky enough to be making your approach when it is like this, you have to be calm and confident, match their speed, pick your gap, and they will let you in. Of course it helps when zip-merging with tailgating arseholes if you are driving something bigger than they are.
I have a rule that if I am behind a driver I don’t trust, I won’t attempt the ramp, and I’ll pull over just past the petrol station near the Crafers Pizza Bar and sit for a bit. Even if I don’t do that I back off a bit well before the ramp, so that when I am on it I can get up to speed without coming into the rear of another driver’s slow approach. Tonight I had backed off, the ramp was clear (or so I thought), and I made my approach. But ahead of me there was someone who wasn’t confident, who wasn’t lucky, or the tailgating arseholes just wouldn’t let in, and they ended up stopped at the end of the on-ramp. It wasn’t clear and I didn’t see their lights. Probably because there were so many other cars passing so close to one another that it had all blended together in my mind. It was the tiniest bit of inattention, but a tiny bit is all it takes.
When I saw the car, I was at speed, and I had picked my gap. The problem was I didn’t have enough ramp, and if I cut in early I’d be coming in suddenly and too diagonally to the packed in traffic, risking other vehicles. I made the call to ditch into the emergency stopping lane. Fortunately, my brakes are good. Also fortunately, I have a damn good set of tyres on. These three things mean that I came to a controlled (if rapid) stop in the emergency stopping lane to the left of the other vehicle. You will note our stopped friends had not moved along into it, which is what the experienced folk do if they get cockblocked there, so as to not impede anyone making a clean approach (if it happens to you, move a ways down it, too.. leave room for others). But this is hardly their issue, how were they to know? The real issues here are tailgating arseholes and an on-ramp stupidly close to an off-ramp immediately after it.