You have got your suit dry-cleaned and freshly pressed, your crisp white shirt is the bee’s knees and your Marks & Sparks tie is the right shade of blue. You know you will get that interview. The weather’s not so enthusiastic though. It is raining quite heavily, but not enough to dampen your get-up-and-go spirit. You step out the front door, umbrella in hand. You turn into the main road, trying your best to dodge the assorted puddles rapidly forming on the pavement as you walk down towards the rail station.
As you blissfully daydream of becoming the hottest sales executive at Jerry’s Printers Ltd ever, you fail to notice the massive lake of rainwater lying in wait just beyond the kerb. You also fail to notice the green van being driven at speed, careering towards the giant puddle. VROOOOMMMMSPLLLLAAAASHHHH!!. A wall of dirty water that a surfer would sweat over rises suddenly from the van’s tyres and soaks you from head-to-toe. Your white shirt is now halfway between brown and grey. Your suit weighs a lot more than it used to. Your trousers sag. Panic ensues. There’s no way you can show up for the 9:45 like this. You call up ahead to cancel. Your mobile, having born the brunt of the dripping onslaught, does not switch on….Goodbye company car and gold-plated pension.
As any unfortunate pedestrian caught between tarmac and a wet place will tell you, being soaked in puddle juice by white-van man or the No. 69 bus from Leyton is no joke. It’s cold, miserable, and frankly a little scary, not to mention embarrassing. It has long been a scourge of cold wintery days, where inconsiderate or oblivious drivers almost get a sick psychotic pleasure out of doing a drive-by drenching on some poor sods at the bus stop. This article’s author has had his fair share of near misses. The soaked clothing, the shower of expletives, the raised fist defiantly shaken at the knob who had just turned him into a drowned sewer rat. Those memories will be forever etched in his Half-Eaten Mind until the last breath.
Drivers who soak-and-run don’t always escape scot-free. In 2009, a Plymouth, Devon motorist who deliberately targeted a group of school children for a early morning shower was dragged to court. The 29-year-old, who even filmed the hydro-carnage from a camera on her dashboard, was cited for careless driving.
Devon schoolkid soaking (see the video here, courtesy Sky News)
A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police told Sky News Online: “Deliberately splashing people by driving through a big puddle could mean that the motorist was driving without reasonable consideration for other road users.
“There is also the real danger that by driving through standing water this could cause the driver of the vehicle to lose control and could result in a road traffic collision.
“People involved in this practice could find themselves prosecuted and points put on their licence.”
Driving through a puddle to splash bystanders is an offence of “careless, and inconsiderate, driving” under the Road Traffic Act section 3 and carries a fine of up to £2,500. (Sky News Online – 14/10/2009)
A man in nearby Yeovil was fined £150 and awarded three penalty points on his licence after running through a puddle and splashing some nearby road workers, who subsequently reported him.
So how do those puddles get there to cause that kind of nuisance in the first place. In most developed countries, roads are essentially strips of asphalt/tarmac which are designed to be waterproof to prevent the road surface from deteriorating. As most road surfaces are curved concavely to enable moisture runoff, the rain as it lands is sent by gravity to accumulate between the road itself and the kerb. Likelihoods of puddles increase if the drains that take away the excess water are blocked. It would be easy to suggest lining every pedestrianised road, street and lane in the UK or anywhere else with some kind of super-absorbent sponge. Unlikely, though, as it would be a frightful expense for councils to cover.
Interestingly enough, Britain’s oldest puddle still in service is in the Oxfordshire town of Wallingford. Since April of 1976, this hardy specimen sits at the junction of Fir Tree Avenue and Wantage Road. Thanks to county border disputes, political apathy and a poorly-maintained highway, the puddle’s longevity has entered it into local folklore. The residents of Wallingford, who once pleaded with local politicians to have it removed, now consider it a peculiar tourist attraction and it is even now the starting point for a local pub crawl, the Wally Run. There is no tradition however of any Ford Fiestas or Nissan Jukes using the Wally puddle for a slip-and-slide. Or a re-enactment of “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”…
Unfortunately for any foot-based road user, massive puddles are a fact of life. When it rains and pours down buckets , they will come. And there will always be unhinged thrill-seekers on four wheels. Some advice from the Half-Eaten Mind: keep an eye out for the big ‘uns, keep the other eye on oncoming traffic and walk as close to the shopfronts as you can!.