Apart from the financial constraints, I never quite manage to convince myself of the benefit of taking driving lessons in a city like Madrid. This feeling hardens when people say to me so regularly, "so and so has had a accident on the motorway", "Juan Pérez has been hospitalized for six months following a car crash, "Pepito's brother was on the news on Saturday in an accident in which he barely escaped alive and will need x number of transplants". Yesterday El País reported that Madrid alone had recorded 9,500 accidents in the first 6 months of 2004. The figures dwarf those of the 11 March terrorist attacks.
Only last Thursday I was walking to the Puerta del Sol to meet a friend an decided to take a diversion via the Plaza Mayor. On my way towards the square I saw a number of police cars and a van with the words "Accident Investigation" painted on its back. Inside was a mobile office in which an officer was interviewing a driver while taking down notes on his laptop. The driver looked white with shock and only a few steps further it was possible to see why. His car was at the bottom of the ramp running into an underground car park and behind it was a corpse covered from head almost to toe(but unpleasantly not entirely), with a metal rug and surrounded by policemen. I could not work out the cause of the accident and unaccustomed as I am to viewing corpses I did not choose to stick around unlike a number of other onlookers who stared down from the street level in a mixture of shock and bewilderment at what had occured. Friday's papers confirmed it had been a motorcyclist and that he had crashed into the back of the car on his way into the car park. His helmet came off and flew several metres which suggests he had it improperly adjusted, maybe due to the baking heat.
I felt somewhat queasy for the rest of the evening and all the more resolved to stick to public transport for the time being. Besides the tragedy for the victims family and friends, the driver of the car will no doubt need substantial psychological treatment before he can properly deal with the trauma.