I can’t remember what the figure is up to now, but every time we drive up from Madrid to the in-laws place in the Sierra, a digital display across the highway reminds us and the other drivers pouring out of the city how many people have died in road accidents this year. I think the number is hovering around 1900, and today we nearly saw it increase by a good few right in front of our eyes.
Near death experience no. 1 involved a suicidal fool in a sporty hatchback cut-in on the car in front of us at the very very last minute and at insane speeds in order to get into a slightly less congested and walled off central carriageway. He miraculously missed the car and the sturdy bollards delineating the end of the slip road by inches and sped off into the distance.
Shortly afterwards Darwin-award contender number two nearly side-swiped us off the road at a roundabout as he entered the sweeping curve at a hellish speed, nearly flipping as he squeezed past us on two screeching wheels. He slowed down considerably once he got past us, having obviously scared himself, and us, half to death. At least that is how it seemed from the safe distance we immediately put between us and him, until he reached the next roundabout, and performed the exact same maneuver!
Finally, 10 minutes later, we had the pleasure of encountering your average psychotic mega-SUV-driving imbecile, who undertook us at high speed just as the lane he was in ended at the top of a winding hill. Would his lunch have got all that much colder (or his next beer that much warmer) if he’d filtered in patiently behind us, like anyone else with half a brain, half a sense of self-preservation, and half a right to hold a drivers license?
We arrived in one piece, but distinctly nervy. What happens to these people when they get behind the wheel of a car? Is it just that they know instinctively that in Spain there is a 99% percent chance that they will never be caught performing illegal and potentially lethal moves like these? Do they suffer total amnesia the moment they pass their tests and their driving instruction comes to an end?
Personally I think it is the lack of harsh policing on Spain’s roads. There may be more speed cameras around and the odd breathalysing brigade out on a weekend night in the big cities, but it obviously isn’t getting through to the likes of those who so deftly showed us their desire to wipe themselves and others off the face of the earth this morning.
Then again what can you do in a country that introduces a points system to try and remove licenses from bad drivers, but only takes 6 of the available 12 points away from drunk drivers, who are then free to go out, drink up, and head off into the wild once more?
Update: “UK drivers caught texting could get 2 years behind bars” (link) – This is the sort of thing that makes UK driving a hell of a lot safer. I’m all for Draconian policing on the roads