‘Closest I’ve ever come’ to disaster

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by Alexia Johnston

Driver narrowly avoids road carnage

A few centimetres are all that separated a Timaru motorist from becoming another statistic on New Zealand roads last week.

Anna-Claire Hargest-Slade narrowly avoided hitting a vehicle when it pulled out in front of her on a 100kmh stretch of State Highway 1 last Thursday.

She was driving home from Christchurch when the near-miss happened about 5km north of the Clandeboye turnoff, about 6.45pm.

The offending car, a “purple-blue” vehicle, possibly a Toyota Corolla, had pulled out of a side road directly after another vehicle, which gave Ms Hargest-Slade the impression they were travelling in convoy.

When the first car pulled out, she thought it was a bit “close for comfort”.

“It was a rookie mistake, something a learner driver or a driver who’d never driven on the open road would make.” – Anna-Claire Hargest-Slade

Then the second car suddenly pulled out, and how she did not hit it she still does not know.

After recovering from the initial shock, Ms Hargest-Slade took to social media via her blog, Bellissimo Racconto, to tell her story.

“They pulled out with the slow, indecisive manner indicative of a driver inexperienced at judging on-coming traffic speed. It was a rookie mistake, something a learner driver or a driver who’d never driven on the open road would make,” she said.

Ms Hargest-Slade, who was in her four-wheel-drive vehicle, was travelling with her 9-year-old son and two Japanese exchange students who were trying to sleep when the scene unfolded.

She hit the brakes with such force her tyres left a trail of smoke, while she thumped on the horn and screamed before coming to rest on the side of the road.

“Through the grace of God, and new brakes, we braked violently and missed those tourists,” she said.

“This was the closest I’ve ever come to wiping someone else out.”

Ms Hargest-Slade feels occupants of her vehicle would have survived if they had collided, but doubted the people in the offending vehicle would have been as lucky.

“This reminds me of all the tragic headlines in the news [last] week,” she said.

Nine people died on New Zealand roads from October 6 to 9, and as of Monday the road toll for 2017 was 299, up 44 on the corresponding period last year.