Guard rails.

On my way to work this morning I nearly slid off of the road. That isn’t too uncommon around here but had I not reacted in time the results would have been disastrous. There’s a bridge that connects Kittery and Kittery Point on Route 103. Heading into Kittery, just after the bridge there’s a sharp left going downhill. Unfortunately it’s not very well-lit and can get quite icy. Despite the fact that it was generally just above freezing for most places that morning, there was still ice there. I didn’t think anything of it as I made the turn and my car started going out of control. Usually I know how to handle slides like that. This time I panicked. Obviously as I’m writing this I got out of the slide okay but I credit that more to my reflexes than my usual thought process of “Okay, I’m sliding this way, I turn the wheel that way” and so on.

The reason I panicked so much was based on the fact that going in that direction there’s a big ditch right off the side of the road with no guard rail. I can’t understand why there’s no guard rail there as there’s a house right there. Had I slid off the road I would immediately fall down the slope and possibly crashed into the building. The first part of my slide was heading right for that side of the road. Fortunately I was able to get my car on the other side while slowing down, and I only just bumped the curb with my tire. There was no damage to the curb and as far as I can tell nearly ten hours later there’s no damage to the tire. I turned my car around and headed on my way to work.

It was my fault for getting into it and it was my responsibility to get out of it. Let’s nevermind the fact that a guard rail will really just protect drivers that make mistakes on that corner. Still, there are people living down there. Considering how dangerous that curve gets in the winter a simple step of a guard rail will protect them, let alone anybody who should slide off the road.

Coincidentally I had just driven past the pond at Fort McClary right before driving there. That’s also a dangerous part of road with no guard rail in front of the pond. I haven’t heard of anybody driving into it but it can happen. Sure, in that case a guard rail would hurt the scenery but it would still protect drivers as well as skaters when it freezes over. My point for bringing it up, however, was that when this thought process went through my head this morning I concluded it with something like “Well, we’re tough around here and we know how to drive.” I’ve seen nothing but evidence to the contrary but I still tend to think that way.

Let’s think about the scenery issue. Why do guard rails have to be ugly? Why can’t we make them decorative or perhaps make them blend in with their surroundings somehow? It’s not like we need to see them. If somebody is about to crash they’re not going to aim for the nearest rail. At least, I hope they wouldn’t. There’s no guarantee that it will stop every car that crashes into it. When there’s a guard rail on the side of the road there’s a reason for it. You wouldn’t want to aim for something that’s placed there because there’s a hundred foot drop.

Then again, what if people do think that way? In that case, would they aim for the part of the road that doesn’t have a rail at all? With the two examples I gave above that wouldn’t be such a good idea, either. In both cases the Town hasn’t put protection where it should. Yes, I could see why I didn’t want to go off the side of the road I was initially heading towards. But not every driver is out in ideal conditions or in the ideal state of mind.

To get back to the idea of decorative guard rails, they don’t have to be made in any fancy way. Perhaps there’s a reason why they’re designed the way they are and in order for them to “blend in” with their scenery would make them less protective. But we could at least paint them in some way that matches nearby scenery. For a moment I even considered some sort of inspirational message. But then that would be too hokey. Not only that, you don’t want the thing to be distracting. That would be self-defeating.

I have one final thought on the incident this morning. What would the people in that house think when they see headlights going out of control like that? How often does that happen? I would think that if I lived there I would freak out every time I see something it. But then they probably would have gotten used to it by now. I wonder if they ever thought about the fact that there’s no guard rail up there. Sadly, it probably won’t get put up until somebody actually crashes into their building.

Hey, there’s a story idea. Take a character that lives in that scenario and then they stage an accident in order to get the guard rail put up (not to mention getting insurance money). They then start doing it more often until they finally get caught or killed or in some way get their comeuppance.

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