by P.R.Banks

Okay, I have been stalling on doing this for a week or two because I wanted to give events a chance to settle a bit so I'd have more to talk about, but this is what has been keeping me busy for the past few weeks - I had a minor car crash.

This being my first ever crash it has been a somewhat bewildering and mildly annoying event. First things first - the mildly tedious details. It happened at a relatively busy intersection near work. One of the poorer intersections in the design department, to my mind. Basically it is a T intersection. I was coming into the intersection about to be crossed by the T. [1]

Now, unlike an intersection a scant 100m up the road, there is no giveway for traffic going straight through from the right. And to add to the fun there is a free turn for traffic coming from the right to turn onto the road I was on. The idea being that traffic coming from, and going to, wainuiomata would be given preference over other streams of traffic. A quick ASCII diagram of the intersection looks like this :-

 giveway |
- - - - -|            - - - - - - - - - - -
                      - - - - - -          
                      free turn to the right
---------+    |   +---------------------
         | Me     |
         |    |   |   
         |        |
         |    |   |

So I am turning to my right, with the traffic on my left forced to giveway to me. As I came into the intersection I had been, as I was taught in my defensive driving course, watching the road ahead to see who else was coming into the intersection. Due to their being a carpark on the corner to my right you can see a significant distance up the road to the right, which is where I am headed.

I slow down to 20km/hr as I come towards the intersection and get ready to stop fully if I am worried about traffic. Having watched the traffic I saw that there was a van leading the flow from the right and it was free-turning - thus not a problem. The traffic that had been following it had looked like it was turning as well and I couldn't see anyone past the van. The traffic to my left had seen me and was waiting at the giveway for me to turn.

So I begin my turn. As a general rule I am a cautious driver and I don't accelerate quickly. I prefer a slower but smoother speed up if I can manage it. (I am still practicing good clutch control you see.) This habit quite likely saved me from serious to possibly lethal harm. I am good third of the way through my turn when I see, coming into view from behind the van, a white utility coming straight through. I try to stop.

Now this is where I made a mistake. I hit the brake and the clutch at the same time. I should have left the clutch well alone and just stalled the engine. Due to the damping effect of the engine I would have stopped faster than I did.

As it was I almost stopped in time. However one semi-bouncy crunch later and I am out of the car to push it over to the side of the road and to check if anyone is hurt in the other car. The front of the car I was driving was a mess - it looked like some sadistic eight foot giant had taken an oversize can opener to it. The other guy's car looked it had mostly paint damage and a little denting. (And the guy had the nerve to suggest he might have problems driving away in his car.)

I came off worse because he caught my mostly on my front left corner (that tells you how much I had turned by) and concentrated the impact into a shearing motion on the bodywork. Net result is some very jagged looking bodywork. The chasis and car fundamentals (like radiator primarily) were undamaged. Even at the point of the worst mangling the light glass wasn't broken. Although the filament in the light was. No broken glass, no injury to any person (aside from me being in a mild state of shock) and both cars were in a drivable state (well after the crumpling was pushed back a bit on my car to allow the radiator to clear the fan again).

It could easily have been much worse. If I had been faster or less cautious he would have caught me on the drivers side door. [2] At the angle he would have caught me at his front left side would have struck with the full force and the damage would have been quite nasty.

So we get out exchange details, I can't answer on the insurance front because this isn't my car. I was only driving it because the normal owner, my father, was out of the country in Australia at the time. Now he had assured me that he had third party insurance [3] on the car and that it had the under twenty five clause active. (You pay more to insure the car for drivers who are under twenty five years old.) I simply wouldn't drive the car without the assurance that all that was taken care of.

And guess what? He didn't have any active at the time. Net result is that I become liable not only for the repair of the car I was driving but the other guys car as well. Colour me peeved with dearest pater.

So after the crash I manually, with a little help, push the car around to a nearby repair place for evaluation. They tell me to write the car off and buy a new one. After a few suggestions I find a place to fix the car who won't a tell me to write it off. I mean, this isn't my car - I can't write it off. Thus begins the long running saga of 'When is the car going to be fixed'. Currently it has been gone three and a half weeks, with the first three weeks seemingly having had nothing done to it. Mechanics know they have you in their clutches and boy do they use that power.

But that isn't what annoyed me with all this. I'll get back to tardiness a bit later in this comment. No what peeved me is that having examined the car and had it examined by more knowledgeable people - there is not alot wrong with it. Sure the bodywork is a mess and without working headlights the car is not roadworthy but the chasis and basicly the majority of the car is still in perfect working order. Engine? Fine. Suspension? Never better. Passenger compartment, no worries.

The basic damage is body work and a little electrics work to fix the headlight and indicators. And what do the general mechanic populace tell me? Write it off. Write it OFF!?! Here is a general indicator of the malaise that afflicts modern society - we let money rule us too much.

Here the general attitude is to throw away what requires only a minimal degree of specialist work to fix. We are told to throw away something that is in most respects perfectly functional and solid, if a little old, car. What a completely silly attitude! What became of the ideals of building to last? Sure planned obcelessence might artificially inflate the economy and keep product turnover high but at what cost?

In world where increasing awareness of the limited nature of the resources we have been relying on doesn't it make sense to return to the older attitude of building something and trying to build to last as long as possible? To not just do it's job well but do it for a long time? Instead we have a system geared by the system to perpetuate itself. It doesn't care about larger concerns, merely keeping this ticking over in the way that best suits itself.

That system is, of course, the capitalistic one. And it is a good system, up to a point. But it needs to be constrained and controlled. Not only does it not care about conserving resources terribly but it also demands a high toll of it's workers. Alot of the new mental diseases and stresses that we suffer today can be directly attributed to the almost unfettered reign that capitalistic ideas have been given.

We need a hybrid. Something that has a social conscience as well as using capitalistic methods where appropriate. (And they do have their valid uses.) Communism, the almost logical extreme from capitalism, has shown itself to be incapable of coping with standard human nature and capitalism relies on it too well. A middle ground must be struck.

Personally I have always opted for declaring some things to be beyond the reach of money. Living space. Food. Health care and basic social services are not things that should be doled out by monetary means. Such leads to inequity at the base level and capable minds being wasted because they had the mis-fortune to not be born into the right family.

Naturally all this must be tempered with a wide range of other social changes and I don't aim to cover them all here. [4] I know it just a dream but I also know that something needs to be done. This wasteful stupidity present in the current system is an excess we can do without. And primarily my aim with this article has been to point out this ailment with society.

But it doesn't conclude my fun with the car crash just yet. Because of an aforementioned father's lack of diligence I am now open to be liable for the repair bill to the other guy's car. Sure enough his insurance company rang me some three weeks back and informed me that they would be sending something out in the mail.

That was three and a half weeks ago. Mail takes a day tops for in-city transfers and is normally quite reliable. Ergo I am forced to conclude that they don't want to send me something just yet. But what does it mean? Does it mean the damage wasn't worth chasing me up about? (hard to believe, insurance companies surely wouldn't miss a chance to get me to pay for things.) Or is the repair work that bad that it is taking a long time? (In which case why I haven't I at least received preparitory documents?) Or has the other party decided not to claim on his insurance obviating the mess and simply paying for the repair himself?

In anycase I'd like to know. Otherwise I have this sword of damocles hanging over me that may drop anytime soon. It is not a feeling I like particularly, even though I have taken reasonable precautions against the event of the sword dropping.

I'd simply like to know, is that too much to ask? Of course, given that there is no direct profit in informing me, it may well be the case that it is too much to ask...

[1] This is a paraphrase of an old naval maneuver called 'crossing the T'. In the days of sail and cannons the person who could get the most number of broadsides fired at you tended to win, all other things being equal. Sailings up along side each other and slugging away was not an advised maneuver if you could avoid it. So generally fleet formations consisted of straight lines of ships trying to get all ships at once broadside on to the enemy.

The most favoured position was called 'crossing the T'. The enemy would be sailing in a straight line. Your fleet would then cut across the front of that line at right angles to the enemy, exposing your broadsides for firing and presenting virtually nothing in the line of fire for the enemy ships. This was because the cannons were almost exclusively mounted on the side of the ship and very few could be mounted forward (no turrets remember) on the bow to return fire.

A tricky maneuver to complete and, as a consequence, not that often used. But from the books I have read on naval combat it was quite devestating when it worked.

[2] For those international people reading this we drive on the left side of the road here in New Zealand. Consequently the driver's side is on the right side of the car. This caused me a degree of embarrasment while I was in the US as I kept heading for the wrong side of the car to be a passenger....

[3] Also known as liability insurance in other countries. In england it is illegal to put a car on the road without this insurance and I think they have the right idea there. Certainly it would stop the perennial problem the family has with my father of finding out that he doesn't have third party insurance - even after we have asked him to get it and he has assured us he does have it.

[4] But if I was asked nicely I might.

Philip R. Banks
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