By Jordan W. Charness
“Dad! Dad! Dad!” These could have been the last three words I ever heard my son say, or even the three last words I ever heard at all. The truth of the matter is my teenage son Dov might just well have saved all of our lives a couple of weeks ago.
Spending most of my driving time in North America it was easy to become complacent and used to the way we drive here and the types of roads that we drive on. Although we complain about the state of our roads, the fact is that our road system is much better developed than it is in most countries. We are used to wide, reasonably well-maintained roads that easily fit just about any size car or truck.
Long-distance driving is usually on a divided highway with at least two, if not three lanes going in either direction. The roads are generally long and straight with well-defined signs advising you of dangers in the road or information points well in advance of your actually getting to them. The downside of our super highways can often be a monotonous and boring view out the windshield.
Our North American driving habits do not always translate well when driving in a foreign country. Our family’s recent trip to Israel was a case in point. Israel is an amazing country of constantly changing vistas and views. You can drive the entire length of the country in about nine hours and the width across its shortest point in about an hour and a half.
Their road system is constantly evolving for the better and many super highways are being built, but much of the travel is still done on two-lane roads that twist and turn and climb and descend.
The road from Jerusalem to Eilat took us through the Judean desert, alongside the Dead Sea and then through part of the Negev desert. The scenery was amazing and there really wasn’t much traffic.
Speed limits seemed to be governed by the twists and turns in the narrow road and the lack of traffic can make you forget that there is only one lane going in each direction rather than the two lanes going in one direction that we are used to here. Therein lay the problem.
Driving down the road with nary a car in sight I happen to notice a series of signs on the left-hand side of the road that kept repeating a message that I could not quite catch. The signs were in bright red lettering in Hebrew, English and Arabic.
Finally my curiosity got the better of me and I concentrated on the signs I was passing about 100 km/h. It was then that Dov’s voice rang out with the “Dad! Dad! Dad!” warning. He noticed something that I did not. While looking to my left I inadvertently caused the car to follow my eyes and fade to the left side of the road. Another car was coming around a curve and Dov’s warning came just in time for me to pull the car back onto our side of the road before I could cause an accident. Dov may very well have saved our lives.
This harrowing story serves to remind us all that when we transit from super highways to two-lane roads in Canada or abroad we must be extra vigilant and change our driving habits. Passing cars requires a whole new set of skills when doing so on a two-lane road. The law requires that every time you leave your lane you must do so in a completely safe manner and that includes any attempt to pass.
You must single your intent, check your mirrors and blind spots and be sure that you will have enough space to pass a car ahead of you before meeting oncoming traffic head on. Although speed limits on two-lane roads are generally 90 km/h or less, the rate of closure between two cars travelling in opposite directions at 90 km/h is about one car length every second!
Two-lane roads require extra caution whether they are here or abroad. After all you may not always have Dov in the car with you helping to keep you safe.