I have taken on a commitment this fall that has me driving back home
one night a week from Miramichi. As I only get back home around 10:00 PM,
the drive is now completely in the dark. When I drive after dark in
northern New Brunswick, particularly in the spring and in the fall, I am
mindful of the potential presence of moose on the road with me. At times,
I suspect that I am among the very few drivers who are so aware.
Now no one has ever accused me of being a slow-poke driver. Indeed when
I purchased the vehicle that I now drive I was pleased to discover that it
has cruise control aboard. I use the device to keep my occasionally heavy
foot under control. After dark, that means somewhere around the speed
limit (well, truth be told, somewhere just over the speed limit). At that
speed, I feel certain that I am going to be able to see a moose in time,
should one step out onto the road, and to be able to stop or take evasive
At that speed, too, I am one of the slowest drivers on the highway.
In my more recent drives home, I have taken to doing a small, random
survey of vehicles whom I pass (very few indeed) and who pass me
(considerably more). At the onset, just let me say that I get passed,
regularly and often quite quickly, by just about everything that one might
expect to find on the highway at night.I am not particularly surprised
when an SUV or a large size, four wheel drive pickup passes me; somehow
such action, even in the pitch dark, seems to go with the vehicle. I am
always surprised, though, when the passer is driving a small car, because
I am all too aware that, should such a vehicle hit a moose, the
consequences will almost invariably be fatal for the occupants of the car,
as well as for the moose. And then there are the big trucks.
Cars and small trucks usually charge up from behind and, because there
is usually relatively little traffic, they pass me and are gone.The big
trucks present an entirely different situation. All too often, one of them
will close behind me with the obvious intention of passing me. However, at
the speed at which I am travelling, it takes them forever to do so. If
there is any traffic coming from the opposite direction, he cannot get by
and so he begins to tailgate. At 100 or more kilometres an hour, that can
present its own form of excitement, at least for me. If we get to a
passing lane, which, of course, is almost always located on an uphill, he
rapidly begins to lose momentum and cannot get by. Once up the hill and
onto the flat, or, even worse on a downhill, the game begins again. At
such times, I usually end up by signalling a turn-off onto the shoulder to
let him by - a risky enough manoeuvre at that speed and in the dark.
Fortunately traffic is relatively light on these roads at night. Still,
every one of them has presented its incidents that have left me shaking my
head, sometimes over the sheer lack of judgement of drivers of small cars
that would stand no chance of any sort of collision with a moose, or any
other large object, for that matter. On other occasions, I have been
disturbed by the aggressiveness, or the mindlessness, of drivers of bigger
machines who seem to have the idea that because they are relatively safe
in any potential collision, no one else matters.
In the end, I am surprised that there are not more fatal incidents
than, in fact, do occur. it might just be that the moose are getting
smarter. Unfortunately I can't say that about many night-time drivers.