I Learned to Abort
PHOTOS OF A CRUMPLED VW Passat  like the one above are making their rounds in Ireland today as a reminder of the worst road accident on record in the Republic of Ireland.  The moment I heard that eight young men were traveling in the same car, I wondered if the driver was the only one with a usable seat belt. The driver survived but his seven passengers didn't. No Irish mainstream reporting has asked Volkswagen to comment on acceptable vehicle carrying capacity, although that information is in the public interest.
This kind of accident throws up a lot of questions in my mind and the first one is, "Did the driver get any training in aborting a trip?" I remember getting smacked up the side of my face by a rolled newspaper swung by Coach Rompalo because I didn't check both of my wing mirrors before pulling out of a parking spot. Getting smacked simulated a side collision, he said. Getting smacked more than 30 years ago has me checking both mirrors before my tyres roll today.
"Choach" (as we called him) did some other weird things too. One day he put 300 pounds of barbell weights into the trunk (that's the boot to Irish readers) without me knowing, trying to see if I'd notice anything different about the car's appearance or handling. Because I didn't, I got thumped up the back of my head. That lump receded but today, I notice how low a car sits before I set off in it.
The extra weight in the back of the car changed the steering, tracking and braking. It was supposed to result in an aborted drivers' training session. If I aborted, I passed that session without having to parallel park.
I learned a lot about safe driving by copping onto reasons to abort my driving. I cannot imagine how any alert driver or knowing passenger would accept the look and feel of an over-grossed automobile. Where I'm from, that's an abort, not a drive.
1. Photo of the accident Passat by Paul Faith.
2. Gay Byrne -- "The Road's Dark Day" in the Irish Examiner, 13 July 2010.
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