Friday, 8 January 2010

Please don't throw snowballs at trucks.

Something has to be said about the weather. It is the longest cold spell that this country has seen since 1981. I live on the South coast of England so our weather is always the least extreme of anything we see on the television. The rare times that it does snow, it never lasts very long, but this time the temperatures have not risen above freezing for several days so the snow that did fall on Tuesday (it is now Friday) has not melted. The main roads are fairly clear, but the residential streets are still pretty slippery.

I drive a lorry. The driving seat from which I write is in a DAF CF - a large rigid lorry. Now, driving on ice in a car that does not have special tyres that are designed for it is pretty unpleasant. At all times you are worried that you are going to lose control, that you are going to slide into someone else's car and therefore, that you are going to have the hassle of claiming on insurance, living without your car while it's fixed and all the financial stress that comes with that. Cars are fairly small, light and only have 4 wheels. Most do not have particularly good traction control.

Lorries, especially rigid ones, are actually pretty stable. Mine has a minimum of six wheels in contact with the ground at any one time, and if there is enough weight on the back, another two drop down. The wheels are all really big, the truck is very heavy, it has traction control, anti-skid control and, in case you get stuck, diff lock. However, it is also enormous so if you were to lose control and skid into a parked car, you would probably take out several cars and more than likely write them off completely (quite easily without damaging the truck at all). Equally, if you were to plough into a pavement, you could easily kill several people all at once. This is why, when I was driving down an icy slope, with parked cars and people on one side, a village green with children playing in the snow on the other, I was not very happy when one of those children threw a snowball at my window.

I don't remember throwing snowballs at trucks being a popular pastime when I was little, but then, I grew up here so snow did not play a huge part in my childhood. Nowadays, it appears that throwing snowballs at lorries is one of the things you do when it snows - you know, like make snow angels, build a snowman, have a snowball fight, throw snowballs at trucks. On the really snowy day this week, three snowballs landed on my windows and two more would have done if I hadn't stopped the truck in the middle on the road (having obviously checked my mirrors first) and glared at the kids who were about to throw them. It would only take a momentary lapse in concentration, a slight swerve of the wheel, for my truck to skid into vehicles or people and something unexpectedly flying towards my face could easily cause that. Our brains have evolved sufficiently for us to be able to design trucks, drive them and create societies in which they operate, but they have not evolved sufficiently to avoid ducking or swerving when an unknown projectile flies at our heads.

So if you are in charge of any kids, please explain to them that it's dangerous.


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