This accident happened just north of Sokeh’s Shopping Center. This is one of the two cars that was in the accident. I was told that the incident involved passing. Outside of a car people here are patient, respectful, and deferential. Giving way to others is automatic. Once in a car, however, some of these same people are impatient and anything but deferential, attempting to pass even on a curve. Despite the lack of highways, Pohnpei remains a dangerous place to drive
So this morning, Monday 20 August 2012, I was headed up to work at 6:55 A.M. Coming into this same curve I came up at 40 kph behind a car moving at a relatively slow 20 kph. I slowed down, planning to pass once both cars cleared the curve and were on the straight stretch through Sekere. A car came up fast behind me and as the three cars entered the curve, the car behind me swung out to pass me. I was too shocked to grab my camera and grab a picture – it was a blind curve pass on this very same stretch of road. In the morning. Which, as any local keenly knows, means there is a high probability of Kolonia-inbound traffic from Kitti.
Sure enough, as soon as the passing car came abreast of me, a car appeared moving at speed from Sekere. A head on collision was in the works.
I had already hit my brakes – anticipating just this eventuality. The car that was attempting to pass swerved to the right. Because I was ahead of the game – having hit my brakes when I saw they had swung out to pass (pilot training eons ago: react ahead of a potential problem) – when they swerved to avoid impending death, there was space for their car in front of me. As soon as the Kolonia bound car was past, the driver of the car immediately swung out and passed the slow moving car.
An emergency? Not hardly. The driver with an apparent death wish pulled into the gas station not 250 meters further down the road. It was the woman who opens up the gas station at 7:00 each morning.
She almost died this morning trying to save mere seconds for something that was certainly not an emergency. On this same curve.
I wish people could step back from their preoccupation with getting to a place and think in terms of the time differentials. I know, I am a numbers guy. But the time differential is usually mere seconds, maybe minutes. How many times has a taxi recklessly passed me, only for me to catch back up with the taxi a couple minutes later in town traffic? Time gained by passing? None.
In the twists and turns between Sekere and Kolonia the maximum speed at which my car can remain on the road is somewhere just above 60 kph. The speed limit is 40 kph and that is a typical speed for me. The distance is 3 km. If I am stuck behind a car doing 30 kph, the time gain in passing is in the seconds, not minutes, over that stretch. There is no point to passing – not against the risk of injury or death.