These are the first responses from readers answering the question "What happened in your crash? Did it change the way you drive?
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I was taking a coworker home from work one night. We were on the highway but the edge of town so the speed limit was only 30. We approached an intersection & she indicated I should turn so I prepared to turn left. At the last moment she said I should instead be turning right so in the same motion I changed my signal & began turning right. I struck the rear driver's-side of a vehicle speeding by in the passing lane. It only bent the end of my front bumper (Dad fixed it with a metal bar & some leverage the next morning) but put a gouge into the rear panel of the other car. The lesson I learned was that it's better to miss a turn & circle back than to make a last-minute, unexpected change of course. Also, to use my mirrors & be aware of surrounding traffic.
--- An interesting addition to this tale is someone witnessed the collision & saw me & the other driver talking about it. They called the police & told them we were fighting. (We weren't. Just wondering what to do next.) The police came to sort things out & all I got was a ticket for "improper right turn." The other driver was taken away in a squad car. Methinks they gave me a slap on the wrist because they already wanted him for something more important.
~ Evil Jim
In the UK, part of the driving test (theory section) is a hazard perception test. It's a video simulation of driving. When you see a hazard, like a guy on a bike, or an intersection, or a big lorry, a car parked up, traffic lights, pedestrians you have to click the mouse (theory test done in a test centre, on computers). It's a great way to learn the sort of awareness of accident causing things. A search for hazard perception test will find you one, see how you do.
1. When parking a car you are not familiar with, be aware of how far the front sticks out past what you can see of it. Or you might go too far into a space and hit a wall in your dads brand new car (sorry).
2. When reverse parking, be aware of any ditch that the rear wheels may dip into at the point you really should stop, otherwise you won't push the break pedal hard enough as the car rolls backwards under gravity, and you hit another wall in your dads brand new car. (sorry again)
3. When driving on a motorway (what us brits call an interstate) once. It was a busy day, packed with cars, but still doing the usual 80mph that i was keeping up with. I thought I left enough space to the car in front. As we went over the crest of a small hill, the car in front saw before i did that the traffic ahead was stationary. He slammed his brakes on, so I did the same, and the car behind me did also. When everyone came to a stop, I had a foot between the car in front, and a foot between the car behind. But I was lucky, most other cars in the line had rear ended the car they were following. Moral of the story, when driving in fast traffic, you need to be aware of more than the car immediately in front of you.
4. When driving in an unusual place, be aware of the different rules of the road. And don't look at scenery too long, or you might go straight through a stop sign in florida at 50mph. (oops)
Fortunately no serious crashes though, just those minor bumps when parking.
My husband was driving me to work after getting no sleep the night before...we were on Lemon Hill just east of 65th Expressway when some stoopid wer-man putting her mascara on while she was driving pulled right in front of us and slammed her brakes on for no reason at all. He jerked the wheel over to the right, slammed the brakes on and proceeded to rear-end a white Toyota Camry. The stoopid wer-man (so called due to her excessively furry eyebrows) glanced at us in her rearview mirror (she was using it mostly to make sure she put the mascara on her lashes instead of her eyelids) and then BOOKED. So, we got the accident on our insurance and driving records and the bitch got clean off for what amounts to a hit-and-run. Oh, yeah, and the "nice" teacher lady we hit? She suddenly developed neck pain 3 weeks after the accident and got a nice settlement from our insurance company. This was 3 yrs ago and our rates just when down this month. Moral to the story -- don't drive tired or near ugly women who need more makeup than they can apply at home.
My father had a car crash once - it happened while he was on the way to pick up a friend of mine. Fortunatly, he was able to, after a bit of time, pick up the friend and only be about an hour late.
My only substantial authorities-involved accident was where my moving vehicle was struck by a faster-moving pedestrian. Seriously. I was in a left-hand turn lane on Harbor Blvd. in Anaheim, Calif. (known for its deadly intersections, plus Disneyland), and I was waiting for a green arrow. To my right was a large white van, which blocked my entire view to the right. The arrow turned green and I started rolling forward when two teenagers came bolting across the crosswalk on my left. I slammed on the brakes, waited for them to finish running (on the red, across a 6-lane, 50 mph street...smart kids.) As I took my foot off the brake and rolled through the crosswalk WHAM! A 55-year-old man ran full speed into the right side of my car. It seems the white van that blocked me from seeing him blocked him from seeing me, and when the teens ran across the road he decided, "Oh, this must be crossing time, what with the cars honking at them and the red light and all." So he bolted across the street straight into my car.
By now the regular green light turned and cars started whizzing by this guy lying in the road, so my passenger scooped him into the car and I drove across the street to a gas station. The whole way he was yelling in Spanish. (I made out words like "dangerous" and "stupid" and "oh, my back.") The fire dept. EMTs came, took both our stories, they were the same, and they carted him off to get checked out at the hospital.
The impact broke the passenger rear view mirror and put a man-sized dent in the door. Fortunately, it was easily fixable, and the guy was only bruised, but the insurance company would not get off me about hitting a pedestrian in a crosswalk. According to them, I was a thrill-seeking delinquent who liked running over 55-year-old immigrants. The fact that it was the side of the car damaged, not the front, didn't convince them. It took the police report and a lot of follow-up calls to get them to believe the pedestrian hit ME!
Lessons learned - always stop just before the crosswalk, not on it, so people can see around you....I'm talking to you stupid white van that caused the accident then almost ran the guy over trying to get away as fast as you could; and nudge verrrrrry slowly into traffic if you can't see on both sides and if local pedestrians are insane.
Diana, San Francisco, CA
I was in college in Lubbock, Texas and was headed towards the "strip" which is the only place to buy alcohol out there. I approached a red light in the left lane which turned green before I reached the intersection. I stayed on the gas, passing cars to my right. Out of nowhere a car in the FAR right-hand lane decided to make a left turn and collided with me at high speed. I had zero time to react and glanced-off a light pole before coming to rest one inch from a concrete wall. EVERYTHING in my car (including my rear speakers) was on the dashboard or at my feet. My hands flew through the streering wheel and were planted on the windshield. A sherrif's deputy (who was at the intersection) pulled my door open and exclaimed "Holy shit, son, you're alive!!!" I got out of the car to find a Mexican woman from the other vehical complaining about her neck. This dumb bitch had just totalled my car with law inforcement as a witness so I told her to shut the fuck up. We both produced our papers, but weeks later it turned out the ALL her credentials were false, so my insurance company dropped my policy and I had to pay for everything, even though nothing was my fault.
I now drive VERY slowly everywhere, especially through intersections.
I've been rear-ended a couple of times (er, that is, the CAR has been rear-ended!), but both times at such low speeds that no damage was caused.
The only marginally-serious accident in which I've been involved was when I was driving through an industrial estate in Dublin (Ireland) and a guy pulled out of a warehouse's driveway: I was doing about five mph (because my destination was about ten yards away), he was doing about the same, but wasn't really looking where he was going. So, incredibly slowly, he crashed right into the passenger side of my car. It was bizarre, like watching slow-motion footage on one of those police-cam shows (with the obvious exception that I didn't get to see the same crash over and over).
The lesson I learned was this: if the other driver doesn't appear to have noticed you, don't just keep going and expect him to look in your direction in time: stop the car! If your car is stopped and there's an accident, then no matter how you look at it, it wasn't your fault.
I clipped the back left corner of the car in front of me while trying to change lanes on the freeway. I looked over my shoulder to check my blindspot, started to change lanes, and the car breaked hard. There was a loud crunch and I stopped traffic in both directions. It gave me an odd sense of power.
I blame the Sudafed, Aphex Twin, and hearty Mexican lunch which combined to put me in a semi trance-like state and slowed down how fast my head moved.
Now I don't take Sudafed and I vary my "blind spot checking speed" according to the current traffic density.
I still listen to Aphex Twin and eat Mexican food because you have to remember who you are and not let life change that.
I don't drive =)
I don't drive personally, but when I was about 8 or 9, my mom and my brother and I were on our way to church one Sunday, and as we were turning off the highway off-ramp (on a green light), BAM! all of a sudden this little Honda t-bones into the front corner of our car. Luckily we were in an old Chevy Impala, so we just got shaken up and had a chip out of our bumper. The other guy, who was racing another car apparantly, well his car spun out of control, took out a railing and rolled down the embankment. His car was totalled. I guess the moral of the story is you need to be vigilant even when you're driving correctly.
During college, I was working for the summer break at a farm. I was working 14-18 hours a day, with the odd day off once or twice a month. I was constantly exhausted and would fall asleep behind the wheel at least once a week (the sound of the car going from asphalt to gravel would wake me up). Once particularly bad night, I had fallen asleep 2 or 3 times, but made it through my highway driving and entered my town, pulling up behind another car at a red light. The next thing I knew, I was jarred awake by a bump. I had fallen asleep again and my foot slipped off the brake. We both got out and looked over the cars. The woman I hit was furious, but luckily there was no damage. I think she may have thought I was stoned because I was still so drowsy and tried to mumble an explanation, but I suspect it was incomprehensible. After that, I explained the situation to my boss, saying either my hours get cut back or I quit. I realize now how stupid it was to let it get to that point.
I worked on the farm on weekends through the winter as well. One morning during a huge storm I was headed to work late. I was behind a snowplow on the highway and decided to pass, figuring the 4wd would handle what was on the road. Note to warm-climate readers: although plows in North America are designed to push the snow off to the right, they still leave a trail of snow/ice/slush just to the left of their blade. I underestimated the effect of hitting that trail of slush at highway speeds. As soon as my wheels touched it, I went sideways, my nose facing away from the plow. I yanked the wheel back towards the plow, overcompensating, which was stupid. Now I was heading towards the plow and I still hadn't thought to take my foot off the gas. I turned the wheel back again, careful not to turn too far, and regained control. I eased up on the gas, and carefully eased back behind the plow. I followed it the rest of the way to work.
The coolest accident I saw was behind another work place. There was a milk truck making a delivery to the back of a bar at the top of a hill. On the other side of the road, and halfway down the hill was a construction site with a cement truck at it. Behind the cement truck was 2 storeys of scaffolding, with a guy working in it. I was coming back from lunch and parked near the cement truck. I got out and started up the hill to the front of my office building. I saw a milk truck coming slowly down the hill and thought nothing of it, until it got a bit far over the center of the road. It was then I noticed that there was no driver. I looked in it's path and saw it was headed in the direction of the scaffolding/cement truck. I yelled "Get out of there!" to the guy working. Blank stare. I yelled again and pointed at the truck. Bingo. He dropped his tools and got out quick. The milk truck slammed the cement truck, rocking it sideways ... but not over (damn!). Some of the other workmen came out and checked the doors (locked), then the back door (open). Digging under the fallen milk crates, they determined nobody had been inside. I walked up the street to the bar where I thought the milk truck had been parked and pounded on the back door. No answer. I pounded harder. A friendly voice said "What's the secret password?". I didn't quite know how to responds, so I knocked again. Friendly voice: "What's the secret password?". Again I didn't know what to say, so I replied "Did someone lose a milk truck?". The friendly voice laughed and opened the door. The guy's jaw dropped. Not-so-friendly voice: "Where the fuck did it go?". I pointed down the street. "Aw, fuck." I didn't stick around to get the back story, but I suspect the parking brake worked, but not as good as it should have. The truck wasn't going as quickly as I thought it should have, considering the grade of the hill. Ref num: 8008135. Will send a diagram.
I was merging into traffic from an on-ramp. The truck ahead of me pulled away. I looked back over my shoulder and saw an opening. I kept looking left to get into that opening and BAM, I hit the truck ahead of me, which had for some reason decided not to merge in and was still there.
I was going slow but was not wearing my seat belt and the impact threw me onto the dash like a rag doll. One arm turned on the wipers and the other grazed the stereo volume knob and cranked it loud. I got a close-up view of the windshield.
It was one of those trucks with compartments all over the back and a ladder that went over the top. The ladder, welded to the back bumper stuck out enough that it left a big indentation in my front bumper even at low speed. The driver of the truck stepped halfway out and yelled "You OK?" and I said "Yes". He peeled out - I'm guessing he had no insurance.
Two lessons: Keep looking in all directions (especially where you're going) while merging and wear your seat belt.
Back in March a friend of mine was driving his truck right behind me, and we were both speeding a lot. We both took a sharp turn kinda fast. I was ahead of him, and I slowed down a lot, so I took the turn just fine. Thing is, I was in a Buick, he had an old, beat up, loaded pickup truck. The turn was way too much for him (and he didn't slow down). He fishtailed twice before slamming into a ditch, flipping the truck, spinning in mid air, and coming to rest on someone's front lawn. He was killed on impact.
Driving that fast around a sharp corner in a loaded pickup was really stupid. So don't do it. In fact, if you're going fast enough to sqeal your tires around a turn, you're probably going too fast. And you probably won't listen to this warning. He didn't. (He was only 16. Just got his license two days earlier.)
Although I have been in several wrecks, I will only recount the last one, as it is the best and worst at the same time.
I was driving back to Connecticut after having been home on leave from the Navy. I was driving through Virginia and had stopped the night before at a hotel in Roanoke due to heavy rains. I got up early and got back on the road by 8:00am.
About 10 miles into the second day of the journey, I saw that I was approaching a slow moving pickup in the slow lane of the freeway (I-81N), so I decided to change lanes and pass the doddering old fool. Little did I know that at this particular place... a slow bend in the freeway and a low point in this mountainous landscape... there was a little bit of surface water on the road.
As I changed lanes I felt the rear end of the car lose traction. The car started to slide sideways, and as my eyes followed the road from teh windshield to the passenger window, the only thought to go through my mind was, "Oh, no! Not again." (Funnily enough, those were the same final thoughts to go through the mind of a bowl of petunias prior to impact on the planet Magrathea, but I diverge).
As the road disappeared from the passenger side window, it was replaced by a looming (leading edge of a)guard rail which decided that that was a good time to try to stop a speeding, sideways '86 Thunderbird. It failed miserably.
The guard rail struck the passenger door and passed through the car like a hot knife through butter. The guard rail came though the car between the front seat and the pedals, hitting my left foot on its way thrgouh, cutting the car in half.
The '86 T-Bird came to rest in two distinct pieces... The front half, including the engine and what ramained of the dash board and windshield, and the rear half including the front and rear seats, the trunk, and me.
My seatbelt had worked and had kept me in the front seat. After initially being dazed, I reached and pressed the seatbelt button, releasing it to return to its stowed position as if nothing had happened.
I stood up. There was no floorboard under my feet. There was no roof over my head. The seat I had been sitting in was attached to the rear half of the car by two bolts, but it was still attached.
Dazed, I turned and walked away from the remains of my car. Some would think that the story would end here, however there is a slight epilog to this story.
As it happens, there were several other people in other cars that witnessed all of this. One enthusiastic man stopped his car and got out. He saw me walking away from the wreckage and started running over, shouting.
"SIT DOWN!" he yelled, "LAY DOWN! YOU MGHT BE HURT!"
And with those words of caution, he barrelled into me and tackled me as if he were Lawrence Taylor and I was some hapless third string quarterback.
Fortunately, after all of this, I excaped with only severe bumps an bruises, and one minor cut that didn't even really require stitches, although the hospital put one in just to say that they did something.
I have not been in a wreck since then, and although I doubt I could have done much different on that day, I have decided to slow down, especially on wet roads. Hydroplaning is a feeling I never want to experience again.
None of my accidents have really changed the way I drive; I guess I drive better or slower than I did before. And I don't turn my wheels while waiting in the left-hand turn lane after someone explained to me what would happen if you were rear-ended with your tires facing to the left.
I have noticed lately that almost no one ever admits that accidents or tickets were their fault. We've all done it; why make up some long, detailed, and boring story to make it look like it was someone else's fault?
What happened in your crash? Did it change the way you drive?
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July 22nd, 2006