This is a story I remember extremely well. It happened just over three years ago, when I was 17. It's also really long, TLDR at end.
Two weeks after passing my driving test I was driving to school. My school was the other side of a series of hills called the South Downs, crossing the hills involved a reasonably windy road. It was far from continuous hairpin windy, but there weren't many straights.
This was early October, 2011, and the UK had been going through a spell of weather known as the 'Indian Summer'. For almost a fortnight temperatures had been pushing 100°F, something rarely seen in the real summer. Humidity hadn't fallen from 100% once over that time.
The Thursday morning in question was the day all that weather ended. The weather wasn't dreadful, just dull. As I set off rain began to fall, if you can call it that. It was a fairly pitiful excuse for precipitation, one that hardly warranted even the intermittent setting on the wipers.
That rain was important to this story, however. You see, during a long and hot spell car tyres deposit more rubber than they would usually, and without frequent rain these deposits can build up to form a thin layer of rubber above the tarmac. Chemists amongst us will know that rubber, essentially long cross-linked carbon-based polymers, is fairly hydrophobic. Add rain, and the result is a slippery, greasy road.
I mentioned that there weren't many straights on this 15 mile road, there are two of note. The first is straight up/down a one in 10 hill, and is always taken with such caution that this is about the safest part of the whole road. The other connects the village of South Harting and the Town of Petersfield, where my school was. Here the road widens, almost enough for four cars to drive alongside each other. This stretch is often driven upwards of 80 mph with little danger.
Back to that day in October. I'd climbed up the hills, driven down the perilous straight I mentioned before, and opened up on the longer, wider of the straights. At this time of day this road is packed, it's an arterial route for those who live in the South Downs (as a national park, the Downs rarely see the construction of new roads).
At the end of the straight I slowed. Here is where my memory starts to fail on this story, it comes back shortly after. I was approaching an S-bend as the road narrowed, and headed under woods.
I remember looking down at the speedometer, but I can't remember what it said.
After that all I remember is looking up and seeing trees spinning around me, looking back down the way we came, then at the trees the other side of the road. Here the car stopped spinning, but I felt the road disappear as the car slid onto the verge on the right hand side of the road (in the UK we drive on the left).
I remember thinking 'don't roll' precisely at the moment the car did. As the car slid back into the other side of the road the car flipped off its roof and onto its side, drivers side up. I came to rest in the middle of the lane that would have been oncoming traffic.
The first person to come past was a taxi, he'd come round a blind bend before hitting the brakes hard and swerving to avoid me. He stopped just as I, held into my seat by my seatbelt, was figuring out how to safely get out of the car. The taxi driver helped me out of the car just as the school matron, who had been following me, arrived.
As car crashes go, in itself mine wasn't all that dangerous. The car only did a 3/4 roll on soft mud, and there had been no oncoming traffic.
That last bit is precisely how bad this could have been. The road was packed that day, both lanes, and out of all the moments I could have spun and rolled into oncoming traffic there was none.
Psychological recovery wasn't too much of a problem. I spent the next four days feeling like shit, during which I went to a (dreadful) Barbarians rugby match and then lost my job. When I returned to school the next Monday I was back to normal. A little over a month later when the insurance money had come in my Dad took me to buy a new car, and I got into that and drove away like nothing had ever happened.
Curiously, this summer I was driving that same stretch of road in the opposite direction in my new car. Right as I went through that same s-bend the car broke down with an electrical fire. Luck was on my side this time, the fire contained itself purely to the coils and the fix cost little over £100.
TLDR: Spun and rolled car into oncoming traffic, luckily there was none.
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