EDIT: Photos below.
In keeping with my apparent theme of things that suck, today I’m going to skip over companies that I think did me wrong and focus on something entirely different: car accidents.
This past Saturday, Jaime and I headed out to the store to buy some plant stands for our hot peppers, and to the grocery store for the few remaining ingredients we needed to make gumbo for dinner. We started our roux (it takes an hour and a half) and we headed out.
We took our usual route to the store. We were headed south, traveling about 30-35 mph on a two lane road. We approached an intersection where two one-way roads separated by a 25 foot median intersected our road, with the first one-way we were to cross being westbound and the second being eastbound.
We entered the intersection, and about 15 feet later the light turned yellow. I was committed– I was well past the threshold of the intersection, traveling at 30-35mph. I couldn’t have stopped, and barring some sort of psychic event, I was going through the intersection.
Almost immediately after the light turned yellow, I saw another vehicle approaching us, traveling the opposite direction as us– north. The driver of the other car, who also had a yellow light at that point, was attempting to turn left (our right) and head west down the one-way. Unfortunately, he incorrectly judged the distance and rate of speed at which we were traveling. He accelerated, attempting to beat both the light, and my car.
I slammed on my breaks, and we started skidding. Time seemed to slow down during the brief instant between the time I thought, “Hm, I might crash” and when I realized, “Oh !@#$% I’m gonna crash.” I basically had two options. Either I could cut my wheel hard, and hope that the impact was on the side of the car, or I could go head on with this guy. I dri(o)ve a Corolla– if I were to get into a side impact accident, whoever was on the side of the car where the impact occurred would likely have been severely injured or killed. I didn’t want to die, and I surely wasn’t going to sacrifice Jaime. Head on was the decision.
I kept my foot on the brakes, and turned to face Jaime just before impact. Our cars collided with our headlights literally matching up. There was a lot of noise– awful noise. You know, that terrible plastic crunch? Terrible. The airbags deployed, thankfully and we were both, of course, wearing our seatbelts. As soon as the crash was over, I asked Jaime if she was OK, and she was. I then said that we needed to get out of the car as quickly as possible in case there was a fire or other danger.
We got out of the car, and went to check on the other driver. He was OK, out of his car. In the blur that occurred next, I’m not sure what was said. There was no anger or hostility involved. We had all just made it through a very dangerous head-on collision. I think we were all amazed that we were ok.
The other driver was dazed, obviously. He grabbed his cellphone, and couldn’t remember who to call. He couldn’t remember to call 911. Finally, he called, and told the operator where we were. Amazingly, the operator could not simple put “the intersection of this street and that street.” They actually needed a freaking address. How stupid is that? We were just driving and in a car accident. How the hell are we to know the address of where we just so happened to collide? So, we looked for an address briefly and somehow, I’m not sure, the other driver ended up getting off the phone with them.
The first help to respond was, believe it or not, a group of Savannah firefighters in a big ol’ firetruck. I think they were just in the area and happened to hear the call. They made sure we had no life-threatening injuries, and then started the task of making sure our vehicles were safe. The police arrived– three cars– as the fire department was disconnecting my batter to stop the smoking from my steering wheel.
I gave my statement, which basically consisted of “I was going through the intersection, the light turned yellow, I saw a guy coming right for me, I slammed on the breaks, and we collided.” Apparently the other driver’s story matched up, which makes sense considering I heard him tell someone on his phone that it was his fault. He was cited for failing to yield, and I was not cited.
The tow truck came and took my car away, and I’ll likely never drive it again. The front end just smooshed. The hood crumpled up, the bumper crumpled down, the headlights popped off the sides. The quarterpanels crumpled into the door. The windshield shattered. My car is totaled. It is literally 3 feet shorter now than it was before the accident. To top it off, my car was towed to an impound lot of some sort, and that lot is surely outside. Well, my windows are open, and it rained hard last night and again today. Rain, followed by heat, in the South? Yup, my car is likely growing mold as I type.
The most important part, though, is that Jaime and I– and the other driver– are OK. Jaime ended up with a big bruise on her knee, a sprained pinkie/ring finger on her left hand, a strained muscle in the back of her left leg, and some soreness where the seatbelt was. I ended up with a little soreness where the seatbelt was, a bit of airbag rash, and over several hours developed a stiff neck that is mostly gone and seems to be healing. Amazingly, no medical attention was required for any of us. The airbags did their job, the car crumpled as expected, and the cabin of the car remained 100% in tact.
Jaime and I literally walked home. We were offered rides, but there is something to be said about walking away on your own power after going through an accident like that. We were walking, and nothing was going to stop us. Stubborn asses.
Looking back, there’s nothing I think I could have done to improve the result. Obviously, a head-on impact was preferable to a side impact. I credit instinctual reaction time to lessening the damage and the potential for injury. If I had to estimate, my car was only traveling 5 to 10 miles per hour at the time of impact, while the other driver was going 30 to 40 miles per hour. If I were not so fast on the brakes, we could have hit with each of us traveling at 30 miles per hour. I don’t know about you, but the slower I’m going, the better I like my odds of survival in a car crash.
My brother drove me to get a rental today, and we had to pass through the same intersection. This time, we got stopped at the light. I checked out the road, and you can clearly see fifteen to twenty feet of skid marks that were left by my car. There are no skid marks to indicate that the other driver even attempted to brake.
I’m expecting my car to be totaled, and I’m planning on getting another small car like a Corolla. I’m waiting to hear back from the other driver’s insurance company to see where we go from here.
By the way, we never made it to the store that day. I had to improvise the gumbo, replacing the shrimp with chicken, omitting the green pepper, and swapping out the andouille for… uhh… hotdogs. It was actually really good!
Anyway, thanks for reading. I’m glad I was here to write it.
EDIT: Here are some images of my car that I managed to sneak.