A near miss on the Trans-Canada Highway gave a Valleyview resident plenty of cause for reflection - and gratitude - on New Year's Eve.
"It is definitely going to give me pause," said Brian Mitchell after he narrowly and unwittingly avoided a high-speed, head-on collision with a vehicle travelling on the wrong side of the highway.
"My feeling is simple - just gratefulness," he said. "I'm here but I shouldn't be. Life is life. It is hard, but it is beautiful."
Mitchell was driving home from the Hot Yoga Studio at around 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. On the opposite side of the concrete divider, he noticed a car rapidly flashing its headlights. He assumed the driver was warning of a speed trap ahead, where the posted limit drops to 80 km/h.
Mitchell wasn't speeding, but slowed down just to err on the side of caution and pulled into the right-hand lane.
After looking over his shoulder to ensure the lane was clear, Mitchell turned back only to see the headlights of an oncoming vehicle speed past him.
"All I saw were those lights where I was. It was three feet off my bumper as I turned my head in. He was in my lane where I was a nanosecond ago."
He wants to thank the driver who tipped him off but may never get the chance to do so directly.
The close call occurred in the eastbound lane of the highway between the Yellowhead exit and Comazzetto Road, the same location as a head-on collision last July.
In that case, an elderly visitor from Bella Coola turned west into the eastbound lane from Comazzetto Road. The errant driver tried to avoid a collision but hit an oncoming car. He suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries.
Mitchell figures the driver on Sunday night could have mistakenly driven onto the divided highway from a similar if not the same crossing.
After the near miss, he pulled off the highway as soon as he could while coming to terms with what had just happened. His emotions caught up with him only after he got home.
"I don't see it as predetermined, but it is life. If I had been killed last night, I hope my family would have said, 'That was life.' " It would have been OK because it's part of life. I just caught a glimpse of that moment."
RCMP Const. Bernie Ward said the detachment gets occasional reports of people driving down the wrong side of the highway. Drivers from outside of the area who are unfamiliar with exits are the most likely to make the potentially deadly mistake, he said. Drunk driving and fatigue may also be to blame.
When they realize their mistake, drivers must react decisively, which isn't always the case. Disorientation can result, with possibly deadly consequences.
"They panic. They're caught. Their mind is not willing to accept the obvious," Ward said.
They need to pull over immediately and do a U-turn if conditions allow.
Drivers also need to get their bearings. Head to a nearby gas station or store for directions if you're disoriented, he recommends.