My First Car Accident

I made it to age 37½ before getting in a car accident. Not bad.

The guy who apparently didn’t check his blind spot before changing lanes hadn’t had an accident in all his 42 years of driving, though. He soiled a better record than I did!

At least I haven’t been at fault in one yet.

I seriously don’t think I’ve ever been so full of adrenalin in all my life. Usually, when you lay on the horn, it’s a friendly, “Hey! I’m over here!” and it gets the other guy’s attention. Maybe he didn’t hear me, or he didn’t realize who was honking or why, but I found myself getting pinned between another car and a concrete wall in a matter of seconds. Scraping sounds, crunching sounds, and I finally had to take my hand off the horn to keep from becoming a pinball on the highway.

Long story short, he got cited for change of course, and I missed Connor’s two-year well-child pediatric appointment. All told, the experience took just under 90 minutes.

Things I learned about myself and about accidents and emergencies in general:

One: Don’t just memorize the license plate number of the offending vehicle. Remember the style and color, too. I was so focused on remembering the license plate number that I completely forgot what color the car was, and actually misremembered it when pressed to guess. Instead of recalling the color of the car, my brain threw out the color of the license plate!

Two: Assume that the other driver is not going to do what you hope they will do. Don’t assume that s/he hears you honk, or will swerve back into the lane from whence they came. I’m guilty of this frequently — kind of passive-aggressive offensive driving — but this is the first time that it’s bitten me in the ass. Perhaps if I’d have slammed on the brakes sooner instead of the horn, I might have avoided this. Either that, or I’d have gotten rear-ended on the expressway, or been clipped worse on the front of the car instead of full-on squooshed against the wall. Honestly, I don’t think braking sooner would have helped in this case… but it wouldn’t hurt me to drive a bit more defensively in the future, anyway.

Three: Adrenalin overload makes me slow my words and become much more articulate than usual. Or maybe that’s just how I perceived myself. Or maybe it was just having to deal with the police. While the officers were trying to sort out how I’d entered the highway and not had to merge or yield (incoming left-hand ramp that creates a new lane), I had to explain and re-explain myself. I described the scene from several different perspectives — this is where I got on the highway, this is what the not-a-merge sign looked like, this is the sequence of events — and I haven’t used “yes, sir” and “no, sir” so many times in one hour since elementary school in Florida. When the officers seemed to be calling me a liar, or when I wondered if they assumed I was a dumb broad, I had to remind myself that they were just trying to discover the facts. Eventually, they went back to the scene and understood what I’d been trying to explain.

Four: People are people. People are not necessarily “some guy with a handicapped license plate who can’t check his blind spot.” People are not necessarily hit-and-run perpetrators. People get cut off by Jeeps, and find a car that wasn’t there before when they go to pass said Jeep. People sometimes need a couple of exits worth of highway before they can get three lanes over to stop. People can be nice, grandfatherly types who are genuinely concerned and apologetic.

The insurance claim is filed, even though the car seems to have suffered only minor scrapes and one small dent, and no one was hurt. No worries. Lessons learned by all involved.

(And Connor gets to go back to the doctor for a follow-up in two weeks, so I’ll get to accompany him to one doctor’s appointment, anyway.)

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