AN ECHUCA woman learnt the hard way about the dangers of driving tired.
And Belinda Jones-Bird is urging motorists to learn from her mistake.
‘‘It’s just not worth it,’’ she said.
‘‘I was extremely lucky not to be injured but it could have been so much worse.’’
Belinda was driving to Melbourne Airport in early August 2010 after finishing a midnight shift.
‘‘I had planned to drive some of the way and pull over to sleep when I felt tired. I was well aware I wouldn’t get to Melbourne and was prepared to pull over for a sleep at some point,’’ she said.
Once reaching Elmore, Belinda still felt awake and decided to drive to Heathcote and park there for a few hours’ sleep.
‘‘I didn’t want to stop on the side of the road between towns,’’ she said.
However, 10 minutes out of Elmore, fatigue hit.
She remembers the music was playing and the heater was on, but doesn’t remember falling asleep.
‘‘It was literally a head nod. It happened very quickly,’’ she said.
‘‘I missed a corner. The rumble strips and gravel quickly got my attention and before I hit the white posts, I slammed on my brakes and swerved.
‘‘I completely over-corrected and went onto the other side of the road. The car was sliding sideways. I missed the posts on the opposite side of the road and was quickly heading for the fence.
‘‘I had zero control of the car, my hands weren’t even on the steering wheel at this point. The car was travelling at a fair pace and I thought I’d probably flip over the fence and roll the car a few times.’’
Belinda closed her eyes and braced for impact.
Thankfully, due to recent rain, she became bogged before hitting the fence.
‘‘I felt the car sink, a cracking noise and then some scratching,’’ she said.
‘‘I opened my eyes and looked around. I was alive, my breathing was like I’d run a 100m sprint. I looked at my arms, touched my chest and legs looking for blood. I thought I was dreaming.
‘‘I looked out the right window and I was staring at the fence. The car got bogged just before I made impact with the fence. The back of my car literally tapped the fence.’’
Because she couldn’t get out of the car, Belinda called her husband who came to the rescue.
‘‘When I was pulled out, the only damage I had was a broken back mud guard and scratching on my car,’’ she said.
‘‘Lucky is an understatement. I was extremely lucky there was no oncoming traffic and I didn’t cause an accident with another vehicle.’’
Belinda said she was shocked that she really didn’t see or feel it coming.
The near-miss has changed her driving habits and made her more aware that things aren’t always as they seem.
‘‘I’ve pulled over and slept and swapped drivers many times since,’’ she said.
‘‘My shift times have since changed too so long distance night driving doesn’t happen for me very often.
‘‘I would urge anyone who feels even the slightest bit tired while driving to pull over.’’