I’ll never forget the day I dropped a lit cigarette onto my lap and it disappeared somewhere between my legs.
In normal circumstances, I would have simply jumped up and brushed it away.
But as I was doing around 50mph at the wheel of my car on a busy road with traffic all around me this was not an option.
My life did not exactly flash in front of me, but I did think of a possible headline for my obituary: “Journalist died after nether regions caught fire in world first”.
I somehow survived and pulled over safely. It was a close shave as I was left with two asymmetric holes in my trousers, at the top end of my inside legs.
A sharp lesson about the perils of careless driving, and another reason why non-smokers live longer.
I was a moderate smoker at the time and lived a full life at the bar, too. It dawned on me that I was pushing my luck by listing these as my two favourite hobbies, so my smoking habit found its final ash tray.
I succeeded in giving up and felt good about it. I spared my lungs a death sentence, I hoped.
As the 20th anniversary of giving up cigarettes approached, I was struck down with prostate cancer instead.
I have reviewed my weekly drinking units off and on since then, but decided I might be tempting fate again.
The brain is an amazing thing – all these subconscious memories were replayed effortlessly in seconds by my cerebral onboard computer, triggered as I sat in traffic one morning watching a woman lighting a fag as she pulled onto a main road.
She seemed quite accomplished at it, even though she was doing nothing else but concentrate on the cigarette poking out from beneath her nose for a few crucial seconds. Maybe a drag away from death.
Meanwhile, I noticed that I couldn’t see the next driver in front of me as there was so much vaping steam, or whatever it is, swirling around from his open window.
A few moments earlier, I glanced in my rear-view mirror and saw another driver with his face obscured by the round white base of a large cup of coffee he was drinking. I had seen him walk out of a coffee shop down the road with it as I passed by.
I couldn’t see him, so I suppose he couldn’t see me.
An oncoming mobile-phone user with head down in a white van went by oblivious of my presence, but that’s pretty routine these days.
The law only kicks in retrospectively when potential deadly distractions like these are blamed for causing serious injury or death.
I would not be surprised to see another driver doing a spot of toast while overtaking me.
Why aren’t more of us dead?
I am amazed that statistics for road-accident deaths and injuries improved last year in Scotland, but the north and north-east are still the worst given size of population.
Meanwhile, the number of cycling casualties has hit a 10-year high in Scotland.
The relationship between drivers and cyclists remains tense and prickly.
However, cyclists still cling precariously to the roads even with tons of steel on four wheels bearing down on them and passing with inches to spare.
It’s an unequal battle and I have heard people say cyclists should be banned from some roads at certain times for their own good because it’s too dangerous
A recent police operation resulted in an undercover officer posing as an ordinary cyclist nabbing dozens of unsuspecting drivers in the north-east for not leaving enough space when passing bikes.
There is a similar rule about leaving enough space in case a stationary car door is flung open in front of you, but the reality is that it is virtually impossible on narrow congested roads.
Cyclists are always portrayed as victims, a threatened species persecuted by bad drivers. But are equally selfish or unsafe cyclists being over-indulged? They need to be called out, too.
Pity the poor driver. They now have to navigate around a new breed of cyclist: fast-food delivery bikers, who are so laden they look like a giant takeaway on wheels and as though they could fall off at any moment.
And then there is the distraction of cyclists wobbling under the weight of helmets packed with so much monitoring equipment and spy cameras they resemble a mobile GCHQ unit.
Yet if I was given a badge for every cyclist I have saved from injury by anticipating their next move I could cover the back of my car with a display of them – and possibly my bonnet, too.
By all means crack down on stupid selfish drivers, but soon it will be forgotten unless it becomes everyday policing practice.
I wonder how many cyclists the police apprehended during this recent undercover operation? They must have seen some bad ones while out and about.
I have never seen police do this and expect I never will.
There is more chance of pedalling backwards uphill for a mile juggling wet fish.
Hang on, I think I saw that once.
David Knight is the long-serving former deputy editor of the Press and Journal